Solid Waste & Recycling


A Matter Of Scale

With hundreds of vehicles frequenting recycling facilities each day, the need for up-to-date technology and operational effi- ciencies are key in maximizing business potential in for-profit environmen...

With hundreds of vehicles frequenting recycling facilities each day, the need for up-to-date technology and operational effi- ciencies are key in maximizing business potential in for-profit environments and skillfully utilizing taxpayer dollars in government-managed organizations. Necessary security measures for employees, customers, cash and physical property also become a major priority.

Recycling facility operators are reporting an increased trend in the use of scale houses and control cabins to assist with operations at the front line. Amy Roering, of Hennepin County Environmental Services, comments on security and customer service benefits.

“We found that our operations function much better with the presence of the new scale house,” she says.

Not only are facilities utilizing more scale houses, they’re adding more scales to increase inbound and outbound lanes, sometimes even creating a separate “express line” for specific categories of customers. In addition to the increased security that scale houses provide, new technology software and security camera mounts tied into the structures help decrease customer discrepancies. By taking a camera snapshot of each vehicle entering the facility, operators are able to detail the weight, size and appearance of each load, cutting down on illegal materials entering the site and being dumped.

The primary issues faced by facilities without a scale house are security and equipment maintenance problems. The security of company assets in an unconfined space as well as the threat from dust and weather can create an environment that’s detrimental to necessary electronics such as computers and communications systems.

Some facilities use a job box, which provides little shelter during hot, cold or rainy weather. Those that don’t use any structure generally have a large open lot that vehicles enter. One of the problems drivers encounter is that they’re not immediately directed where to go, having no discernable landmark indicating a place to stop and unload.

Uncontrolled environments that once plagued the operational efficiency at many facilities can now be eliminated with the installation of a prefabricated scale house. Unlike manufacturing a structure on-site, prefabricated options avoid retaining an architectural firm, going through a permit process, finding a competent builder, and then waiting for a construction process to play itself out.

In the case of Hennepin County, the primary functions found to be the most helpful was the climate control offered by the HVAC, traffic control, and safety for vendors, suppliers, visitors, drivers and attendants. In addition, workers found the scale house contributed greatly to a clean working environment as well as a decrease in noise pollution, which was a significant help in answering phone calls.

“It provides the same things a building would: security, safety from the elements, and it’s clean,” she says. “Our employees keep saying that it’s so clean. They are also more productive with a climate controlled scale house, especially with our harsh weather.”

After researching prefabricated structures offering custom designs, Hennepin County chose to go with California-based B.I.G. Enterprises due to their product life expectancy and ability to meet the tough design requirements.

One of the major contributing factors to this increased lifespan is the paint on the scale houses. The new B.I.G. paint system provides a catalyzed two-component polyurethane topcoat paint that serves as a protective feature by resisting chemical, impact, fade, abrasion and UV exposure. Recently tested by an independent third party for rust and corrosion under extreme simulated weather conditions, the paint system showed no signs of rusting, no undercut creeping and no corrosion at the scribe cut in the steel after 3,500 hours of punishing laboratory tests.

Another feature critical to operational efficiency for Hennepin County was the custom window design.

“We really like the windows because the employees have a 360-degree view from our scale house, which helps with traffic control,” adds Roering.

The scale houses also allow the employee to have some privacy when dealing with customers at the entrance. This lets them take notes in private and make a phone call if they feel questionable material is present and they don’t want the customer to hear.

One facility owner comments on the functionality of the doors.

“These doors are offset from one another. So as the customers pull up, we can swing open the door and easily look inside the truck without having to go completely outside. As they pull in, we can observe if they have any material that we don’t buy and then write it down on the ticket that we give them. When they leave, we open the outbound door to make sure they still have the unwanted materials, and didn’t just dump it. These offset doors speed the process immeasurably.”

With plenty of cabinet and counter space available, scale house and cabin control operators find the area convenient and easy to use. Each scale house comes with electrical, including provisions for data, communication and security camera systems, stainless steel shelves, and a high output commercial HVAC.

Aengus McLoone is with Beckett & Beckett, Inc. in Los Angeles, California. Contact Aengus at


“By taking a camera snapshot of each vehicle entering the facility, operators can cut down on illegal materials entering the site.”

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