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Why Waste Management?

We’ve all seen it.  A huge development is built with the best and latest of everything from smart technology to exceptional design finishes.  Except, wait, what is going on with the trash?  Waste management received minor attention within major project planning for many years.  But in the last ten years, and seemingly growing exponentially year by year, waste management has become critical to all project developments.

The Past’s Ideology is Today’s Necessity

Twenty years ago, I remember proposing on a project with a plan to establish 35% diversion from the landfill by waste recycling and was met with serious resistance from the owner and development team. Today, environmental goals to stretch landfill diversion up to 90%, also known as “net zero” waste planning, are the objective, not the exception.  Project teams must understand these goals and adhere to the many new laws for recycling, particularly for commingled recyclables (glass, metals, plastics, and cardboard/paper) and organics/compostable wastes.

Successful waste planning on major projects requires focus to be given to the handling within the facility, which includes “separation at the point of generation” (a mantra in waste planning), movement from point A to B, and the employment of the best equipment and proper staging areas for eventual pickup.

A Key Discipline

Increasingly, waste management is not only the best practice for the developer and planning team, but also, it is required for site plan approvals.  A waste consultant is key to a project’s success, particularly when considering that today’s plans need to account for future conditions and goals for many decades.  And while we all want to reduce our waste footprint, waste still exists and needs to be handled efficiently and properly… not to mention safely, especially if there is hazardous waste involved.  A cohesive plan to address the waste people will generate, including soiled dock planning and waste hauler pickup, must be developed in the early stages of the project as part of the base building planning.  And who better than an independent specialist with knowledge and experience to tackle the issue?

First, the Prep

Once engaged, the waste consultant works with the team to determine just how much trash, and what types, might be generated based on the makeup of the project.  Is this a residential apartment building with retail in the lobby?  Is it a campus of several buildings, some of which are residential, some commercial and still others with food-related outlets?  Is it a healthcare facility with bio-hazardous, chemical, pharmaceutical, and other hazardous and specialty waste handling requirements?

Trash is Trash, or is it?

The permutations of who, what, where, when and how waste is generated requires careful thought and identification.  After all, trash comes in all shapes and sizes.  Some is useful; we can reuse or recycle it.  Some is nasty; this might be hazardous.  Some we call specialty; this must be handled differently.  Some is food waste; it smells.  Some is plain old general trash.  Generation estimates are made based on these permutations.  This waste generation estimate is then utilized as a basis for waste area design planning and waste handling equipment specification.

The Bottom Line

Waste is a necessary evil.  Everybody makes trash but no one wants to talk about it, see it or most importantly, smell it, that’s for sure.  Moreover, everyone is becoming more socially conscious about the effect of waste’s contribution to global warming and the essential need for all of us to take immediate action to reduce our carbon footprint on the world.

The proper handling of it can mean the difference between a successful environment that the public uses or an inadequate facility that ultimately proves to be a logistical nightmare where waste is concerned.  Waste handling is one area that, while simultaneously no one and everybody cares about, it is easily overlooked until it is too late.

Do yourself a favor….don’t just throw some dumpsters out in the parking lot and think waste will take care of itself, if this is even allowed given increasing regulations.  Instead, add a waste consultant to the team who can address these complexities with forethought and make waste management a successful component of your project.

By:  Joe Sorgent | Director of Sustainability

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