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Industrial Trash Can Buying Guide

Waste management is a constant, no matter what type of facility you work in. But not all trash cans are suitable for every application; a good industrial trash can will be very different than a desk-side waste-paper basket.

Where offices can get away with small plastic bins and a set of dumpsters out back, industrial facilities must prepare for much more challenging waste streams. Heavy loads, awkward shapes, and greater volumes are the norm in these settings.

This leads to a purchasing challenge. How can managers of industrial facilities ensure that their waste bins are designed to stand up to their unique applications, while also limiting hazards and productivity-loss?

Here are the questions you need to answer when choosing trash cans for manufacturing, warehousing, or other industrial facilities — along with suggestions on answering these questions in a way that will prevent the productivity loss sometimes associated with managing waste materials in an industrial context.

What are the waste streams the facility generates?

Responsible corporate entities can’t just toss everything into the landfill. The EPA Waste Management Hierarchy lists four total methods of handling materials, listed here from most beneficial to least preferred:

  1. Avoiding generating waste in the first place; reusing waste materials without processing.
  2. Recycling waste into new usable materials. (For organic waste, that means commercial composting.)
  3. Recovering energy from waste, as in landfill gas, anaerobic digestion, or other waste-to-energy technologies.
  4. Disposal while protecting the environment from associated toxicity.

For most industrial applications, this scenario leads to two separate waste streams: recycling and landfill waste. But the number of individual waste streams coming out of a facility can multiply quite rapidly beyond these big two.

Recycling may be divided into various material types (glass, metal, paper). Food manufacturers may establish a compost stream in addition to their recycling and landfill-bound wastes. And hazardous wastes must be kept strictly out of the municipal solid waste stream.

It has become increasingly important to maintain clean recycling streams, too. Since China banned most imported plastic wastes in 2018, other traditional recycling processors have followed suit; Malaysia is just the latest to send a message that impure materials are no longer welcome as imports.

Trash cans themselves can be a major tool in keeping waste streams separate. Assign a color and a visual label to each waste stream, and make sure trash cans are color-coded to match. Green recycling bins and yellow landfill containers, for instance, are unlikely to be confused with one another. Ideally, even dumpsters can be labeled and colored to ensure that recycling and landfill waste remain separate.

Which trash cans are suitable for outdoor use?

Outdoor commercial trash cans will include features that simple indoor bins don’t need. If you plan on storing waste outside the facility — or using indoor/outdoor bins that spend some time in either environment — look for the following attributes when making a purchase:

  • Heavy duty materials. The ideal waste bin has to find a balance between tough, heavy duty construction and low weight. (This is why stainless steel isn’t always the best choice for an industrial application.)High density polyethylene (HDPE) is a durable material that, when injection molded, provides a good combination of low weight and high resilience. When choosing an outdoor trash can, though, make sure the HDPE is UV-stabilized. Otherwise, exposure to sunshine can weaken the plastic and lead to failure far sooner than you’d expect.
  • Weather-proof lids. Rainwater weighs a little over 8 pounds per gallon. Leaving a 96-gallon trash can outdoors in a downpour can quickly make the bin unsafe to handle, capping out at well over 700 pounds.Depending on the type of waste, open-topped bins also attract pests ranging from flies to raccoons. For these reasons and more, all outdoor trash cans should be fitted with a tight, weather-proof lid.

     Look for trash cans with lids that attach on a durable hinge. This will ensure the lid doesn’t go missing, while also swiveling open when the bin is inverted at the dumpster.

  • Reinforced construction. Mobile outdoor trash cans tend to wear along the base and edges. Only purchase trash or recycling receptacles that include reinforcement on these high-wear areas.For instance, ICON-series Roll-Out Carts from Cascade are molded with double wear strips along the bottom; this is just one of the features that makes ICON trash cans a standard choice for outdoor commercial trash and industrial waste management operations.

The features that make a good indoor waste receptacle are less robust, of course. Low handling weight, space saving design, and dependable wheels for mobility are typically enough for indoor departmental trash cans at industrial facilities.

How heavy is the waste material that your facility generates?

In order to choose the right fleet of waste or recycling receptacles, start with the attributes of a typical load. What materials require removal from your facility? More to the point, how heavy are these materials?

Higher-weight substances — metals, liquids, stone, etc. — may require a different design than lighter materials. While roll-out carts are ideal for most industrial applications, choose Mobile Garbage Bins for higher-capacity needs.

The 290-gallon Mobile Garbage Bin manufactured by JCO, for instance, features a maximum load limit of nearly 1,000 pounds. Optional tow hooks also allow users to move these high-capacity waste containers with forklifts or electric tuggers.

Given the ergonomic risks associated with pushing or pulling such heavy loads, employers should provide material handling equipment in applications that deal with particularly heavy loads … which brings us to an important point in choosing trash cans.

What sort of bin-handling equipment is available?

Industrial waste loads may expose workers to unacceptable hazards. As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, manually lifting and emptying trash cans increases the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

The simplest way to keep waste-handling safe is to provide material handling equipment designed to remove the danger. In the context of a high-weight, high-capacity materials management operation at an industrial facility, that could include any number of solutions:

  • Electric tuggers allow a single employee to push or pull fully loaded mobile garbage cans without strain. The Nu-Star Power Pusher, for instance, uses an electric motor to handle loads of up to 50,000 pounds (which is well over what you’ll find in most source-level industrial waste streams).
  • Bin Dumpers safely lift and empty trash cans of virtually any weight and design. These material handling solutions remove the risks associated with manual bin handling, and they’re available in both mobile and stationary models.Providing a Dumpmaster Hydraulic Bin Dumper at the dumpster can reduce time spent on waste handling, completely eliminate ergonomic risks, and protect trash cans themselves from rough treatment.
  • The Simpro Dockmaster is a particular type of Bin Dumper, one that’s designed to empty waste bins from the edge of a dock into hoppers, dumpsters, or waiting truck beds. Many commercial and industrial waste management plans place a compacting dumpster just off the loading dock; a Dockmaster makes this arrangement even safer and more productive.

Bin Dumpers (including the Dockmaster) are available with a wide variety of cradles, making them compatible with virtually any type of container with minor adjustments. If existing waste handling equipment is configured for a particular design, though, that could influence the type of trash cans that will provide the greatest cost savings for your facility.

What size trash cans are ideal for industry?

Roll-out carts are available in three sizes: 35 gallons, 64 gallons, and 96 gallons. Stepping up from there, Mobile Garbage Bins are available in 174-gallon and 290-gallon sizes. So how do you know which size is right for your application?

As with any purchasing decision, multiple factors will contribute to the best choice. Consider the following:

  • Projected waste volume. Industrial operations often generate bulky waste materials, and designations in terms of gallons don’t always help buyers visualize what will fit in a given trash can. Here are the dimensions, in inches, of each major size of roll-out bin:
    • -35 gallons: 37.5” high x 19” wide x 12.75” deep

      -64 gallons: 41.5” high x 24” wide x 27” deep -96 gallons: 46” high x 26” wide x 34.5” deep For waste materials that won’t fit into any of these three sizes of trash cans, consider investing in larger-scale Mobile Garbage Bins. Here are the dimensions for both sizes available from Solus Group:

      -174 gallons: 46.7” high x 48.5” wide x 29.7” deep

      -290 gallons: 53.4” high x 43.3” wide x 53.9” deep Mobile Garbage Bins are designed for heavy loads; the larger model can safely handle up to 970 pounds.
  • In-house waste removal schedule. How often can staff empty waste bins into dumpsters? The composition of waste streams will affect the answer to this question. Organic wastes can attract pests, begin to smell, or even create unsafe work environments fairly quickly.Facilities with organic waste streams may opt for smaller trash cans indoors. This will require more frequent trips to the dumpster, but will prevent the negative impacts of spoiling organic waste within the facility.
  • Waste composition. Before choosing trash can models, it’s important to understand exactly what types of waste your facility is generating, and how much of each. Different waste streams may require differently sized containers. Choose smaller roll-out carts for heavier materials, like metal recyclables. Lighter, higher-volume materials — like plastic packaging, for instance — could be collected in larger roll-out carts.

Consider the needs of each waste stream within the facility. You may need a fleet of smaller trash cans, on an accelerated emptying schedule, for a composting stream. At the same time, recycling may require larger roll-out carts in a variety of colors (one for each material). And bulky industrial waste bound for the landfill could require a set of Mobile Garbage Bins. All of these collections could co-exist within a single industrial operation.

Complete a Waste Audit to Determine Waste-Handling Needs

The best way to plan for any waste-handling infrastructure change is to start by understanding your waste streams. That requires a waste assessment, also called a “waste audit.” While the EPA recommends waste audits as a first step for waste-reduction programs, the process can also help purchasers identify potential improvements in their waste management plans more broadly — including choosing which industrial trash cans will provide the greatest benefit.

The EPA recommends three methods of completing a waste assessment. Any combination of these three techniques may be helpful, up to and including all three:

  1. Assess waste stream composition through company records. It isn’t always necessary to get your hands dirty to understand the materials a facility sends out for disposal. Many facilities keep detailed records on waste generation; even if they don’t, contracts with waste haulers can give clues as to the volume of material involved in each waste stream.Other, non-waste-related records can help paint a picture of waste streams, as well. Compare a volume of purchased materials with the volume of materials used in a manufacturing process, for instance; materials not used may end up as waste or recycling. Learn more about examining records to learn about waste generation at your facility in this guide from the EPA.
  2. Complete a waste-focused walk-through of the facility. If records don’t provide enough on-the-ground data to evaluate waste generation, try a walk-through. This technique has the advantage of connecting waste streams to the industrial processes that create them. Even better, it gives managers a department-by-department breakdown, which will help when choosing where to deploy waste-handling infrastructure.Essentially, a walk-through is a fact-finding mission that takes the team through the entire facility, preferably just before waste is removed from the building. By looking at trash cans and interviewing staff, managers can get a better idea of how materials that the organization is sending to the recycling facility or the landfill. Learn more about a waste-assessment walk through here.
  3. Sort, measure, and record facility waste. The gold-standard test of a company’s waste generation is the waste sort. This practice involves collecting trash cans from around the building, emptying them out onto a sorting floor, and physically separating them by type.Precise measurements during a waste sort provide the most detailed information on the operation’s waste. Learn about conducting a waste sort and calculating results here.

Once you have hard data on the volume and composition of an operation’s various waste streams, it becomes fairly simple to calculate handling needs. With this data in hand, you can choose a fleet of industrial trash cans that exactly matches the demand.

Find Solus Group’s comprehensive selection of industrial trash cans and bin-handling equipment here.