Can Revamping Waste Management Save Your Gas Stations Money?

Your gas stations and convenience stores may have a basic recycling system in place, or you may feel that you don’t generate sufficient waste to warrant the need for one. But even though gas station waste is relatively low volume, there are still plenty of materials that can easily be segregated from the general waste stream to reduce your waste costs and make your operations more environmentally sustainable.

Either way, it’s likely that your waste management practices are in need of a revamp. This article lays out the simple steps you can take to do so.

Understand Your Waste Streams and Volumes

Before you start any restructuring of your existing program, you will need to understand the kinds of waste your gas stations and convenience stores handle. The simplest way to do so is to carry out a quick audit of the trash cans. Doing this a few times throughout the year will make it more accurate, taking into account any seasonal changes. Instruct each station to provide a list of the types and volumes of items that their customers and staff throw away.

Common recyclables at gas stations and convenience stores include:

  • Printer paper
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Aluminum cans
  • Steel (tin) cans
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Plastic containers (#1 and #2)

Common recyclables at gas stations and convenience stores include:

  • Waste tires
  • Lead-acid vehicle batteries
  • Yard wastes
  • Used motor oil
  • Oil absorbents and oil absorbent materials

Reduce Waste Volumes

If your gas stations and convenience stores discard lots of packaging or disposable products, they will be paying too much on disposal costs, as well as wasting valuable resources.

Below are some simple methods to reduce the amount of waste your stations send to landfill:

  • Ask vendors to provide reusable containers
    Vendors should be able to provide your deliveries in containers such as crates, pallets and boxes that can be emptied and exchanged at the next delivery. This significantly reduces corrugated cardboard and plastic wrapping waste, both of which are voluminous materials. This one change can have a big impact on waste bills and could possibly enable you to reduce your collection frequencies.
  • Sell reusable mugs / thermal coffee cups printed with your store logo
    This is also great advertising, as your customers will have your mugs with them in their vehicles. By allowing customers to refill the mug at a slight discount, it can help to increase brand loyalty, as environmentally conscious customers may choose to use your gas station and convenience store over another, just so that they can refill their cup.
  • Swap out paper towels for air dryers in restrooms
    Used paper towels can’t be recycled, and can be quite a voluminous waste to manage for their relative weight. The lifetime costs of air hand dryers generally also work out cheaper than the procurement costs of paper towels.
  • Purchase multipurpose, concentrated cleaning supplies
    This can be used instead of job-specific, ready-to-use supplies, so that your stations can reduce their plastic waste. Instruct your stores that they purchase the least toxic cleaner available that is appropriate for their multiple needs.
  • Donate or compost excess food
    Food banks may accept some excess food items for redistribution. Alternatively, your hauler should also be able to find local composting processing facilities for your stations if they generate sufficient food waste for a separate collection. Check out our article on reducing organic waste by clicking here.

Develop a Recycling System with your Haulers

After getting your sites to assess and reduce the amount of waste that they’re generating, the next step is to speak with the haulers about recycling options for your stations.

Your garbage hauler may be able to take recycling, but if not then you may need to find a different hauler. Once you have your operators in place, work with them to develop a collection process and pickup schedule based on the recyclables generated at your store. Discuss with them whether you will need additional dumpsters or carts for recycling and if they will provide those.

Educate Employees

To ensure the success of your recycling program, it’s important to get all your staff on board. Talk to managers, cashiers, maintenance staff and stockers so they are aware of your recycling program and policies. To instill a sense of commitment to the program, station managers need to:

  • Integrate recycling operations into store procedures
  • Incorporate recycling and waste reduction methods into employee responsibilities and new employee training
  • Involve employees in the development and maintenance of the program

Click here to read our article that provides best practice guidance on reducing gas station and convenience store waste for more guidance on what to include in your employee education program.

Evaluate Your Program

After your program has had some time to get established, evaluate its success and make any adjustments necessary. It can be particularly beneficial to ask staff to identify problems or opportunities for improvement, since they are the ones who are directly handling the materials.

Ask your hauler for information on:

  • The quantity of each material collected
  • Material quality and any contamination issues. Then you can work to correct these issues
  • Analysis of the costs or savings associated with your recycling program

It can be valuable for staff and customer engagement to share any program successes with them, to let them know how much waste they are helping to prevent from ending up in the landfill!

Expand Your Program

Once you’ve developed a successful program, the next step is to extend it out to recycle other materials. Once you have the recycling processes and containers in place, you’ll find it easy to recycle additional materials like batteries, cell phones, food waste etc.

Some items like batteries and cell phones can generate a small income, and customers will start to know that they can use your gas stations and convenience stores to recycle these materials – potentially bringing in more customers to your business.

NWA Does the Hard Work for You

If you want to reduce your waste management costs and improve the environmental performance of your gas stations and convenience stores, you don’t have to do it on your own. By partnering with National Waste Associates (NWA), you’ll benefit from our wealth of experience and industry knowledge. Our experts will coach your staff and develop tailored plans for each of your sites to help them streamline their waste operations, save the most money, and recycle the most materials in the most cost-efficient manner.

And most importantly, we’ll allow you to focus your attention on other business matters, making waste one thing you never have to worry about. Click here to learn more.

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