How Utilities Facilities Can Dramatically Optimize Their Waste Operations

Facilities within the Utilities sector generate a diverse range of recyclable and non-recyclable wastes. A comprehensive management strategy is therefore required to optimize the treatment of these materials, in order to reduce operating costs, ensure regulatory compliance, and meet organizational sustainability targets.

This article considers the four main areas that these wastes fall into, and how your waste management provider should be optimizing each of them for you.

General Waste

Produced from within administrative offices and plant facilities, this encompasses all non-hazardous or special materials that cannot be recycled or reused. An experienced waste management provider will identify opportunities to save costs and improve efficiency by:

  • Right sizing waste containers to the precise requirements of each site’s operations. Your waste manager should perform analysis of all compactors and containers across your entire portfolio of sites, and recommend specifications and sizes that will improve service efficiency and reduce haulage frequency, thereby reducing the associated costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Actively reviewing waste tonnages for every single container at all of your facilities. If containers are regularly being serviced before they reach their optimal weight, this will cost your business in premature hauls and result in a higher carbon footprint for your waste operations. Your waste management partner should run an optimization program to constantly maximize compactor and open top dumpster tonnages, increasing the average tons per haul and maximizing payloads.
  • Identifying opportunities to divert materials from landfill. The materials sent to your general waste containers must be routinely audited, to ensure that there are no materials that could be segregated and diverted from landfill. This exercise should run in conjunction with hauler market analysis, so that when a new recycling stream becomes financially viable within a geographic area, that information is reviewed together with the waste audit to qualify if the material should start to be segregated for recycling or sent to a Waste to Energy (WtE) plant.

General Recycling

The common recyclable materials of cardboard, paper, glass, plastic bottles and cans are produced throughout utilities operations, and there are several major opportunities to reduce the costs associated with them:

  • Staff training. You shouldn’t be paying to move half empty containers as this negates the environmental benefit of segregating the material. However, some sites may have consistently low weight containers, but report that they are always full. Taking cardboard as an example, this can often be due to poor waste handling practices like boxes being thrown into the container without first being broken down. A conscientious waste manager will work with the site to increase container weights by providing waste handling training to relevant staff, providing educational signage, or even making alterations to the loading system so that boxes must be broken apart before they are disposed of.
  • Right sizing and load optimization are also important for achieving the greatest efficiency of hauls for recyclable materials. Many of these materials are high volume and low density, and so it is critical that the containers are customized to each waste stream and operational requirement to achieve the optimal tonnage.
  • Pre-treatment. Your waste management provider should also look for opportunities to source pre-treatment equipment where appropriate. Pre-treatment with balers or compactors prior to transportation can reduce the costs associated with storage and haulage, and also present opportunities to earn additional rebates for the material. An experienced waste provider will consult with your individual sites to source the equipment that will generate the fastest ROI and greatest environmental savings.

Special Wastes and Sludges

Heavy weights are not the same as optimal weights. Your waste partner should be constantly reviewing the tonnages of your special waste consignments in order to identify excessive weights. Sludges should be de-watered as much as possible prior to disposal so that you aren’t paying to dispose of excess water. When wasteful practices are identified, your waste service provider should provide coaching to the sites to help them reduce unnecessary tonnage. Most haulers won’t bring this issue to a customers’ attention because they earn more money by disposing of heavier containers.

With high density materials such as sludges, it is equally important to ensure that container weights don’t exceed local DOT requirements. The right sizing analysis that your waste provider carries out must be finely balanced between optimizing tonnages, and ensuring regulatory compliance for transit.

Special wastes and sludges require additional control mechanisms for safe haulage and treatment. As well as ensuring that all manifests are in order, your waste provider should perform hauler audits to ensure the safe transit and treatment of these materials so that you can be confident that this part of the operations is in full compliance with environmental regulations.

Non-Traditional Recycling

When auditing the general waste stream, there may be materials that could be diverted from landfill that are beyond the scope of general recycling programs and facilities. In some instances, it can be possible to generate a revenue stream from these materials, if they can be used as a feedstock for another business process.

Your waste provider should be actively engaged to work alongside your environmental engineers and quality control departments to identify these materials, find a suitable pathway, forecast the cost savings and implement the new diversion methodologies.

Consolidated, Active Waste Management with NWA

By providing consolidated waste management solutions to our customers, National Waste Associates (NWA) has the complete oversight necessary to generate the greatest possible cost and environmental savings.

Our experts actively work with individual site managers to create customized solutions that fit their exact operational requirements. And with an overview across the entire waste portfolio, they can identify materials that could be diverted out of more expensive streams and into cheaper, more environmentally beneficial ones.

Together, these solutions can not only reduce operational overheads, but will also make your business more sustainable and more attractive to customers, investors and employees.

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