The REAL costs of the waste and recycling

Design and planning of waste handling on new and existing facilities is important for effective operation and cost management.

Owners and operators see their waste cost increasing year over year due to hauler increases, landfill disposal costs and a litany of other factors due to the current economy.

However, these only drive a portion of the real costs of waste.. Even though disposal costs are rising, it is estimated that hauling and tipping fees represent only half of all waste-related costs. The other half are due to the high cost of handling waste and recyclables.

Oftentimes these costs were hard to see and track. But they were very real: the time it takes just to move materials; the unscheduled extra breaks taken when heading to a dumpster; injury risks inherent in tossing away materials; occasional trash-related shrink issues.

Calculating savings created by better waste-handling systems is difficult. A study by the Contra Costa County Schools Insurance Group (CCCIS) evaluated the effects of utilizing hydraulic cart tippers, integrated on trash compactors, rather than manually loading waste in containers. CCCIS reported that “the combination of lift and twist motion is . . . the most damaging motion to the lower back.” They then studied locations with compactors with hydraulic tippers over a seven years and found they reduced carry-lift back injuries to zero..

The CCCIG study confirms that trash handling is a major part of waste costs. Owners and operators that provide trash equipment should know the implicit handling cost of their “money-saving” equipment. Anyone who designs trash systems, should not leave trash handling issues unaddressed. The safer, more accessible you can make them – the more real money you will save your client.

Design and planning of waste handling on new and existing facilities is vital for effective operation and cost management. As noted above, the cost control of hauling and tipping fees are only part of the problem. To reduce waste disposal costs, owners and operators must develop an efficient and safe Trash Management Plan (TMP).

Trash management planning is a concept that designers and architects sometimes overlook because most of these professionals do not have the expertise and understanding to effectively design efficient waste handling systems. The design should not be a rigid, static plan because things will change over the life of a project. Instead, the TMP should operate more like “planning” – a strategy, yes, but also a dynamic space where things can be modified or adjusted as circumstances change and new information becomes available.

Mixed-use projects provide an example of where a TMP makes “good” sense in controlling present and future waste-related costs. For instance, at the beginning these projects may combine a for-rent residential building + a hotel + a commercial space which consists of tony boutiques and high-end restaurants. They may have a trash system that provides an effective short-term solution to waste disposal and handling. However, change in these types of projects is inevitable. The residential building which targeted young professionals is now filled with older empty nesters. The hotel is converted into condos. The boutiques give way to cafes and also businesses focusing on immersive experiences. Change may also come with new haulers, pricing structures, different custodial arrangements or expanded recycling mandates.

The successful TMP, therefore, must be more than just a plan. It must be designed to be part of a long-term planning process, where the trash system has sufficient versatility and range to adjust to the property’s changing trash universe.

Here at American Trash Management (ATM), we have designed and developed hundreds of TMPs for airports, schools, mixed-use properties, large residential buildings, offices and research facilities. We know waste and know how to handle it cost effectively.

For those interested in reducing the costs and problems of their trash systems, please contact us on our webpage If you are interested in learning about ATM, please review these real-world case studies of how effective ATM has been in saving their client’s money.

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