Solid waste disposal and recycling are a couple of the most complicated issues companies must deal with today. Improperly disposed waste can be a costly and time consuming undertaking and can even present substantial legal difficulties.
For 15 years En-pro International Inc., a consulting company based in Oshawa, Ontario, has worked small and large companies. Here are the answers to ten common questions:
How are disposal and transportation costs determined?
Disposal costs are determined by local municipal or privately owned landfill sites and transfer stations. Fees at municipal sites are fixed, non-negotiable and range from $40 to $90 a tonne. Fees at privately owned sites are negotiable and based on the volume of business from a hauler. Fees are typically marked up by waste disposal companies by as much as $10 to $15 per tonne. Based on the costs involved, a $2 to $3 per tonne administration fee is a more reasonable amount.
Transportation costs are determined by the hauler’s actual costs per minute and the type of equipment used. However, some haulers charge as much as they think they can get away with. Accordingly, companies should not schedule their container lifts at the recommendation of the waste hauler; it doesn’t always save money and often leads to far greater costs than a company should pay.
What is the impact on costs from the recent mergers?
Contrary to what one might expect, there have not yet been major changes in rates for two major reasons. First, the companies are obligated to honour existing contracts and second, they would also like to keep their clients. In fact, we have seen some rates decrease due to route changes and new contracts offered in order to retain business. However, mergers do reduce competition and their long-term effect remains to be seen.
Can we receive money for recyclable material other than paper and cardboard?
Yes and no. When a company produces a substantial amount of solid waste, clean recyclable paper and cardboard and glass, cans and plastics, a no cost or low cost rate can often be obtained for the removal of low-value recyclables. However, these services are generally related to large commercial accounts with source separation. Source separation enables companies to bulk-up materials (such as aluminum cans) to bring in sufficient revenue to offset services on a no-charge or low cost basis. Well-managed waste control programs can reduce landfill costs by as much as 20 per cent.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of baling paper, cardboard and plastics?
The obvious advantages to baling paper and cardboard are to reduce storage space for large amounts of baled waste and to save money in haulage and disposal costs. However, the disadvantage is that storage requires space and can sometimes be quite expensive, particularly if shrink-wrap is involved.
Can we save money by compacting trash from open top roll-off containers and high frequency front-end containers?
Yes, provided your trash lends itself to compaction. Compactable materials (such as standard green bags of office and plant garbage) can be reduced by as much as 25 per cent, and when the total volume exceeds 80 cubic yards per month compaction can be very cost effective. However, glass and construction demolition materials are not compactable so there will be no reduction in transportation costs.
It’s important to conduct a volume-to-cost analysis. For example, a 40 cubic yard per month container lifted eight times a month at $100 per lift will require lifting only 2-3 times per month when converted to a 40 cubic yard compacted container. This will result in reduced lifting costs by $500 to $600 a month. Disposal costs will remain the same because the total weight hasn’t changed. Companies shouldn’t increase the frequency of pick-up without considering the increase in cost.
“Source separation enables companies to bulk-up materials to bring in sufficient revenue to offset services on a no-charge or low cost basis.”
How do we know we can trust a company to service our disposal requirements?
Many disposal companies operate their own Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and sell their services on the basis that they will reduce your source separation work and costs by sorting out the waste streams themselves. Companies should be aware that this could add to the weight of the materials hauled that in turn is charged at the landfill rate. Keep in mind that a competent company will strongly recommend a full service contract to cover the supply of containers to reduce the amount of landfill material before it leaves your plant. This will invariably result in reduced landfill costs and increase recycling credits.
Where do our waste and recyclables go when they leave our plant?
Much of the waste generated in Ontario goes to private landfill sites in the northern United States. Baled cardboard is often transported to U.S. mills because they pay more than their Canadian counterparts. However, plastics generally end up in landfill sites because the chemical compositions of various plastics are rarely compatible and are not recyclable.
We own several plants in North America. Should we consolidate all our business to one disposal company?
Yes, if you can. National waste disposal contracts can, through careful negotiations, reduce overall costs an average of 10 per cent. However, companies should be aware that waste disposal companies usually do not offer a national service unless pressure is applied because the profit margin is considerably greater on single-site contracts.
Are annual waste audits worth the time and cost?
Yes and no. On the one hand, generators of solid waste and recyclables often lose sight of the objective of a waste audit over time and a fresh audit may only go over old issues that should be addressed on a regular basis. On the other hand, an independent audit by a reliable waste management specialist may include future annual reviews for a modest fee. Annual audits are often beneficial because implemented changes can result in the re-negotiation of recycling revenue and disposal costs to the advantage of the waste generator.
How can we control disposal costs in the long term?
Be vigilant. Standard waste disposal contracts are always worded in favour of the vendor. However, these contracts can be modified to balance the control of annual costs between the vendor and the client. Market knowledge is a critical advantage to negotiate both short and long-term service agreements. Know the facts in advance so you can save money.
Terry Slack is a principal of En-Pro International Inc., based in Oshawa, Ontario.