Waste system design challenges

Waste Design Challenges: Is Your Building Design Sabotaging Your Zero Waste Goals?

Waste design challenges in your building may be preventing you from reaching Zero Waste goals.

Did you know…waste design challenges in your building may be holding back your Zero Waste goals? In fact, many common waste management problems can be traced to the way your facility was designed and built. When buildings are designed without waste in mind and without input from waste experts, resulting problems can last for the life of the building.

A lack of waste system design planning can cripple a property’s ability to efficiently remove waste (creating daily headaches), which in turn impacts cost, building performance, compliance, tenant satisfaction, and a whole array of other issues that can snowball over the years. It handicaps efforts to reach Zero Waste, achieve sustainability goals and certifications like LEED, and results in operational inefficiencies.

The good news? If your building was designed without waste in mind, you do not have to be limited by these waste design challenges. You can recognize and  overcome them. Does your building have waste design challenges? Here’s how to tell.

Recognizing Waste Design Challenges Built Into Your Facility

The problem can manifest itself in a number of ways:

  • Are you paying more than you need for waste removal, with more frequent pickups and higher labor costs?
  • Are you noticing unsightly recycling container overflows with material stacked up in corridors?
  • Are you having difficulty getting waste equipment installed, and finding bin liners that fit?
  • Are you having difficulty getting waste collected and picked up?

These are just some signs of possible waste design challenges in buildings.

One of the hallmarks of inefficient waste design is the lack of space for proper waste collection, storage and pickup.

Because buildings are designed to maximize rental space for tenants, space needed for the necessary daily functions of waste management is often shrunk down, and squeezed into whatever area is available, even if that space is not easily accessible and far from where waste pickups happen.

We have seen very narrow building corridors that make it difficult for janitorial crews to navigate their carts, loading docks that do not have enough clearance for waste removal vehicles to maneuver, buildings with insufficient room for the storage of waste materials, and no space for the installation of compactors and other waste equipment.

We have also seen building interiors that are designed with inappropriate built-in waste and recycling collection bins that do not conform to regulations, and cannot hold standard bin liners

All these challenges increases the likelihood of logistical headaches, recycling contamination, and higher labor and removal costs.

3-Steps to Overcoming Waste Design Challenges

1) Review

To determine your options, first review your floor plans and talk to your staff and janitorial crew to get their input on how the current system is functioning. You can also consult a waste expert, who can bring the latest industry knowledge and best practices to the table to help you field workarounds.

Some buildings have resorted to renovations, such as widening hallways, raising ceilings, and strengthening floors (to hold the weight of heavy equipment). But there are cheaper alternatives. For example, using roll-up doors instead of normal double doors frees up space and allows for easier maneuvering of waste containers.

You can also look to repurpose/convert some rooms for waste management use, or work with vendors that can do more frequent pickups with smaller vehicles to cut down on storage and access requirements. To address clearance issues, perhaps rear-load trucks might work better than front-end load trucks. There are always alternatives.

2) Reroute

Sometimes, the solution is to reroute the movement of waste. This is something to explore especially if your business is located on a campus of buildings. Ask yourself, can the flow of waste be redirected to another building on campus for storage, sorting and pickup? On larger sites, the use of golf carts or larger vehicles might help facilitate this movement of waste between buildings.

3) Reduce

Finally, the best long-term strategy is to reduce the waste your business generates in the first place so that less space and fewer pickups are needed, thereby lowering costs. Implementing a plan to move towards Zero Waste is the goal.

Start by conducting a waste audit to assess the amount and types of waste you are generating. This waste data is crucial to helping you pinpoint areas for improvement, which can be simple. For example, if disposable coffee cups and plastic water bottles make up a sizable portion of your waste stream, encourage the use of reusable mugs and bottles, and make water dispensers available.

In addition, don’t forget to look at your supply chain to see how you can reduce waste upstream. Buying materials in bulk is one simple way to reduce packaging waste.

Designing Buildings With Waste in Mind: Architects and Building Developers Hold the Key

A well-designed waste system provides the infrastructure needed to help buildings and businesses reduce waste and move towards a Zero Waste future. This benefits everyone.

Property developers and architects must recognize that, and elevate waste design as a crucial component of every development, and incorporate effective waste design into every new build and renovation project to get it right the first time around.

Learn More:

Large Tech Campus Improves Operations and Lower Costs


Photo: Unsplashed, Daniel Mccullough

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