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What Is a Waste Stream, and Why Is It Important for Your Business?

A waste stream describes the entire lifecycle of waste beginning with its creation and ending with final disposal. Waste management professionals segment waste streams by type (liquids, solids, and gaseous wastes), then look for ways to limit the volume of each stream. What Is a Waste Stream, and Why Is It Important for Your Business?

For businesses in the industrial sector, plotting waste streams can help to highlight opportunities for improvement. By reducing material consumption — and reusing, recycling, or recovering different types of waste — your operation can run more efficiently.

Every business will need to perform a targeted waste audit to find specific areas for improvement. Below, we’ll outline a few important considerations for auditing waste streams and improving your business’s bottom line.

Understanding Your Business’s Waste Streams

Above, we provided a basic waste stream definition. However, it’s important to understand why waste management is a continuing priority in manufacturing, logistics, and throughout the industrial sector: Less waste means more space, lower costs, and improved efficiency.

By one estimate, the United States produces 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste each year. That waste is expensive; landfilling waste can cost $28 per ton or more.

For most businesses, the price of waste doesn’t end with collection costs. In order to comply with environmental regulations, businesses need to account for emission control technologies, waste handling equipment, permitting and approval fees, and management expenses.

Needless to say, efforts in waste reduction, recycling, and energy recovery represent an enormous opportunity. Here are some quick tips for auditing waste streams with an eye toward savings:

  1. Start by categorizing your facility’s various waste streams. Call waste generated in production processes “process waste,” contents of office trash cans “office waste,” and break room or cafeteria trash “food waste.” If you dispose of materials the EPA classifies as hazardous, create a “hazardous waste” category.
  2. Once you have your waste streams organized, pick one to audit. Choose the waste stream that requires the least investment, and form a team of employees to investigate the contents of this stream.
  3. You can’t conduct a waste audit without getting your hands dirty. Waste audit teams must record the contents of trash cans and dumpsters within your chosen waste stream. Weigh contents of various types (recyclables, reusables, landfill-bound trash, etc.) to get solid data.
  4. Now that you know what waste streams are typically found in your trash, evaluate contents to create targets for waste reduction. Depending on the type of waste, your goal could be improving recycling rates, reusing items, or purchasing less of a certain material.
  5. Set attainable goals. Maybe you want to cut paper usage by 50 percent, or cut waste hauling costs by a quarter. Make a plan to meet these goals, either by retraining employees, improving signage on recycling bins, or investing in more efficient waste-handling equipment.

For more detailed guidance on conducting waste audits — and using your findings to reduce facility waste — consult this article from the EPA. Of course, reduction is just one way to drive savings through waste stream optimization. It’s also valuable to streamline waste-handling plans within your facilities.

Optimizing Waste Collection in the Workplace

Don’t take an ad hoc approach to handling waste streams. Without thoughtful procedures and the right equipment, you lose money at every step of the waste stream. Employees spend time disposing of waste, hauling trash cans, and emptying contents into dumpsters. Bins take up valuable space that could be devoted to revenue-generating tasks. Finally, you pay waste management companies to haul that trash to a landfill.

In addition to these inefficiencies, manual waste handling creates ergonomic risks — and potential workplace injuries, with attendant payouts. Overexertion, heavy lifting, and twisting the body are known causes of musculoskeletal disorders. Dumping trash cans requires all of these risky movements.

To reduce the hazards and improve waste handling efficiency, provide specialized material handling equipment at each stage of the waste stream. Here are some products that can help:

1. Roll-Out Carts for Initial Waste Collection

Roll-Out Carts


Instead of standard industrial trash cans, opt for waste bins with wheels. Depending on the volume and type of waste, you may need a 35-gallon, 64-gallon, or even 96-gallon trash can positioned close to the waste generation site.

Sturdy wheels on Roll-Out Carts allow employees to safely transport full bins to dumpsters, without the need for heavy lifting.

Buy Roll-Out Carts from Solus Group

2. Small Plastic Dumpsters for Secondary Waste Stream Accumulation

To keep various waste streams separate, many organizations create intermediate accumulation points between the trash can and the dumpster. By posting Mobile Waste Bins midway between generation and final disposal sites, you cut down on waste-handling demands considerably.

Mobile Garbage Bins are relatively small plastic dumpsters that roll on four heavy-duty casters (only when the brakes are released, of course). Available in multiple colors, these 174-to-290-gallon bins are ideal for keeping waste streams separate, reducing contamination in recycling or composting loads.

Mobile Garbage Bins

Buy Mobile Garbage Bins from Solus Group 

3. Electric Tuggers for Safe, Efficient Bin Transportation

Mobile Garbage Bins feature large, smooth-rolling casters and ergonomic grab handles for manual operation. But they can also be fitted with optional tow hooks, allowing users to move them with an electric tugger or pusher.

Tuggers remove the minimal risk associated with manual handling of these bins and safely speed up trips to the dumpster. With an electric tugger and Mobile Garbage Bins featuring tow hooks, users can build a waste-handling train, allowing a single operator to move multiple loaded bins in a single trip.

Buy Nu-Star Power Pushers from Solus Group

4. Bin Dumpers for Tipping at the Dumpster

Dumpsters typically stand four to five feet high, and lifting heavy trash cans to that height creates serious ergonomic risks. Remove the hazard — and spend less time at the dumpster — with Bin Dumpers from Solus Group. This specialized material handling equipment lifts and tips heavy bins, emptying them into dumpsters with the press of a button.

Bin Dumpers features a unique design that keeps loads centered over the frame throughout the tipping action. That ensures stability and safe, efficient movement of contents every time.

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5. A Turnkey Waste Handling Solution

Large or outdoor facilities make it hard to collect waste efficiently. The Turnkey Waste Handling Solution from Solus Group removes the challenge. This package provides everything you need to set up a waste-handling train, including:

  • Mobile Garbage Bins for waste collection
  • A Nu-Star Power Pusher to power the train
  • A DumpMaster Hydraulic Bin Dumper for safe disposal in dumpsters, or;
  • A MegaDumper Hydraulic Bin Dumper for extra-heavy loads
  • The Bin Blaster lifting devices for effortless bin cleaning

With all these tools working in concert, a single operator can handle an entire facility’s waste streams. That creates a much safer and more efficient waste handling operation.

Buy a Turnkey Waste Handling Solution from Solus Group

While each of the products listed above provides benefits on its own, facility managers get the best results when they approach waste handling as an end-to-end process. The key value of the waste stream as a concept is that it provides a holistic view of how waste moves, from generation to disposal.

By planning for waste streams from start to finish, every facility manager can reduce workplace risks and improve overall operational efficiency. For more strategies about handling waste streams — and the equipment that can help — contact Solus Group at 314-696-0200.