Waste management often falls on the wayside with critical services taking top priority. Find out why facilities managers need to put more thought into waste handling solutions.
Property is not the only sector in which waste management is too often forgotten or left until the last minute, but it is one where the consequences can be long lasting and costly. When waste management is not carefully considered in the design of new developments, the consequences are only too easy to see. A drive around some suburbs on garbage collection day will reveal dozens of overflowing wheelie bins lined up or tipped over on residential kerbs, not to mention broken furniture and mattresses dumped in driveways as well as bins that get burnt, damaged or go missing.
Not only do these problems cost residents, property managers and councils in direct expenses to replace bins and clean bin rooms, they also may have an impact on property values.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Early engagement of an experienced waste management consultant will add value to the development through properly sized bin rooms, safe and workable waste handling solutions, and more straightforward development approval.
Waste Planning Controls
Councils are usually the approval authority for new developments and thankfully more and more are specifying minimum requirements for waste facilities as a condition of development approval. In New South Wales this is usually done through Development Control Plans (DCPs). Some other jurisdictions have similar systems, but others have no mechanism for setting out and enforcing minimum specifications.
A lack of enforceable local government planning requirements for waste handling in new developments has resulted in outcomes like laneways and roads that are too narrow and road surfaces that are unsuitable for heavy waste collection vehicles. Once the building is constructed, it is often too late to resolve these issues and the residents are left with their bins full of frustration and disappointment, as well as waste. They are forced to engage private waste collection contractors with smaller vehicles, or simply drag bins long distances.
To address these issues, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has developed a model waste DCP chapter and many councils in the state have adopted this or developed their own waste sections for DCPs. These set out the requirements for waste storage and handling through the demolition, construction and ongoing use phases, covering developments of all types including residential, commercial, industrial and mixed use. They also provide figures for waste generation rates, minimum bin capacity requirements and typical dimensions for bins and other equipment.
Preparing a Waste Management Plan
For a consultant preparing a waste management plan for a new development, the DCP is the first place to start. This is followed by close examination of development documentation including drawings. Questions to consider through this phase include:
- How many residential apartments will there be?
- How many retail outlets, what type and how big? Food retailers generate more waste than other types and anchor tenants usually handle their own waste.
- What other uses will there be: office space, hotel rooms, community spaces and libraries, for example? All generate different types and quantities of waste.
- Are garbage chutes to be used and where will they be positioned?
- Are garbage compactors required and how much waste will they have to handle?
- What size bins can and should be used?
- Are the chute rooms big enough to accommodate bins and compaction equipment?
- Where will the waste collection take place? Loading dock, car park, street?
- How will full bins get from the chute rooms and other storage areas to the collection point?
- What about food waste, bulky waste and garden organics?
The most important task is calculating the amounts of waste likely to be generated, as these will determine the options for bin sizes, bin room areas and waste handling methods. Calculating residential waste quantities is relatively easy as the DCP usually specifies the minimum bin capacity for garbage, recyclables and garden organics. For example, this may take the form of one 240-litre garbage bin between three apartments, effectively an allowance of 80 litres per apartment. Something similar would also be required for recyclables and possibly garden organics. Multiplying the 80 litres by the number of apartments, then gives the total amount of waste bin capacity required.
If there are enough apartments and large capacity bins (such as 660-litre or 1100-litre) can be used, then individual bin capacity is divided into the total capacity to arrive at the number of bins needed. Once you take into account that chute compactors will compress garbage by a factor of three to one, however, only one-third of the calculated bins are actually required.
You also have to consider how often the bins will be collected. Most councils have a weekly collection for garbage and fortnightly for recyclables, but some offer more frequent collections for high-rise and mixed developments, further reducing the number of bins required to store a week’s worth of garbage or recyclables.
The calculated number of bins is multiplied by the footprint occupied by each bin, with some space for manoeuvring added, to arrive at an area in square metres, which is how big the residential bin room needs to be to accommodate the appropriate number of bins.
Commercial waste complexities
The process for retail and commercial waste is not so simple. DCPs often provide ‘typical’ waste generation rates for certain business types, but these are not always accurate and only cover a limited number of business and occupant types. Good consultants will have access to reliable commercial waste generation data and will know how to interpret it and apply it to the retail, commercial and tenant mix in a given development.
The complicating factor with commercial occupants and tenants is that they may be required to arrange their own waste collection contractor because councils typically do not collect commercial waste. This is where there is sometimes an overlap between design issues and ongoing management issues. There are many ways that bins can be collected and architects may be unfamiliar with the precise methods. The design has to be flexible enough to accommodate most of the usual collection methods and not restrict those available to the facility managers. This is where the waste consultant’s experience is valuable. An experienced waste management consultant knows what collection systems are typical and suitable for the situation, and what is required in the design to allow them to be safely and effectively performed.
So that’s the hard part done, right? Not quite.
Problems often crop up in two other areas: the collection point (the location where bins are collected by a council or a contractor) and transporting bins from the chute rooms and other storage areas to the collection point.
Councils like waste collections to be as unobtrusive as possible so as not to disturb neighbours or residents. Ideally, collections from high-rise and mixed developments would be undertaken from within the development; for example, at a loading dock or in a car park. Normal car park ceiling clearances, however, do not allow this. Collection vehicles usually need at least 4.5 metres in height for adequate clearance, a costly height to specify for an entire car park.
Collections in the street can be subject to noise not impacting on the development’s residents and neighbours. If street collection is proposed, consent authorities would also have to be convinced that bins will not stay on the street too long before and after collection so that odour and visual disamenity upsets residents or causes pedestrian or traffic access problems.
Getting bins to the collection point from the chute rooms, or other areas where they may be stored, also brings work, health and safety requirements into consideration. Cleaning and property management staff should not be required to push bins too far, up steep gradients or over kerbs or steps. DCPs usually cover these conditions and also often specify maximum distances that bins can be pushed on foot. DCPs also often specify that a drawing showing bin travel paths be included in the DA submission.
In large developments, cleaners or property managers may use tow motors or tractors to move a train of bins from around the site to the collection point. This is another area where design and management overlap and where an experienced consultant can help anticipate and resolve potential issues long before the development is constructed and occupied.
Poor design for waste management can cost money and affect the occupants of residential and commercial developments for a long time. Increasing use of enforceable conditions for waste storage and handling in new developments is helping to reduce these problems. Large and complex developments require appropriate technical capabilities to obtain the right data, do the calculations and apply them to individual situations. Experienced waste consultants can advise architects and developers on safe, suitable and likely waste collection systems so that appropriate features can be incorporated into development designs.
The author, Andrew Quinn, principal environmental consultant – Waste Management at GHD.