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[UPDATE] What is on-site waste management?

By Bertie Lourens 26th February 2020 Waste Management

With all this talk about good, green waste management, surely you know how that plays out on the ground, in your workplace, on-site… right? If you hesitated to say yes, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.

Most of us may have a fairly good grasp on waste management in broad stroke terms. We think traditionally, assuming lines rather than life cycles to the production-to-disposal waste process. Still today, we apply an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach that lacks sophistication or strategy: ‘corporate waste management’ is primarily tasked to get the rubbish off the property on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

But on-site waste management is another story - one that interrupts the runaway train of endless waste-to-landfill consumption and disposal, and offers a more sustainable and cyclical waste management alternative.

So, what is on-site waste management?

To answer this, we first have to define what waste management is.

When we talk about waste management, we’re talking about all that is required to move, manage, and eliminate the waste we produce, which includes: collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste, and monitoring of waste. 

In the same way, on-site waste management is about handling your waste streams, and determining the optimal outcome and application of these waste streams at the source. This means you outsource your business’s waste management to a reliable service provider who collects, sorts, disposes of, re-purposes, and recycles your company's waste on your behalf.    

Where does on-site waste management happen?

You determine the spot that suits the company’s footprint and general flow of productivity. Of course, on-site waste management is an end-of-line activity, and should probably take place somewhere on the site where there is easy access to transport, space for sorting, and room for a temporary mess. 

And with this said, cleanliness and order are super high on the agenda for a good waste service provider! Without an efficient and well-run ‘control room’ at the site, you most certainly miss out on optimising the potential value of your waste.

Why is on-site waste management a better option?

It’s always better to work with the pros and we would argue, it pays off too. When you outsource your waste management to the right partners, who are both skilled and resourced to turn waste into value, you inevitably safeguard your company’s future. 

How do we do this?

  1. We work alongside you. We help. We ask. We probe. We audit. And then we work out a strategy for you, for the now and for the long haul. 
  2. We recycle on your behalf, and then pay you for every kilogram saved on recycling
  3. We help you identify the areas where you’re losing out on feasible reduction options, and empower you with sustainable alternatives that significantly lower your waste-to-landfill costs.
  4. We help you stay up-to-date with the latest SA legislation, so that your company is always above board and legally compliant. 
  5. We stick with you - not only relationally, but strategically. We keep you informed and accountable to the plan through regular updates and reporting.
  6. We help you work towards zero waste to landfill - and as such, we keep you in the know of any exciting emerging innovations that could benefit your company down the line. 

To give you more insight into how this is all done, we asked our KZN Sales Manager, Herman Steenkamp, to help us understand and walk us through the process - from rubbish bin to reinvention.

Question: How does the process start?

Herman: Okay, let’s take a Cold Drink bottle as an example. A businessman drinks his Cold Drink and throws it in the hotel room bin. Housekeeping then collects the bottle, and that bottle is then added to the general waste bag on the trolley (in many cases in a separate bag dedicated for recycling). Once all the rooms are serviced, those waste bags are taken to the back of the hotel or basement.

Question: Once the waste bags are full then what?

Herman: Time for sorting! All that waste is then dumped onto a table. That Cold Drink bottle, along with all other recyclable materials, are sorted into allocated piles and placed in clear bags. Those bags, when full, are weighed and measured for monthly stats.

After that, vehicles collect and transport the bags to the sorting facility for bailing. The Cold Drink bottle becomes part of a single-commodity bail, some few hundred kilos strong. That plastic bail is then moved by forklift together with other plastic bailed materials and stored in the yard until it’s sent off to a recycler. In some cases, that could be overseas and the bail would need to be loaded into a container and exported. In other cases, the recycler could be local.

Contact us to see how we can work together and build a better, greener business.

Question: What happens once it’s ready for recycling?

Herman: Once the bottle arrives at the recycler, it gets chopped up. At the same time, it goes through a flotation process, where other materials like the label and top, are removed. The plastic flakes of the bottle, known as PET flakes, are then washed. These clean PET flakes are then melted, extruded (heated to a very high temperature and squeezed through a little hole), and made into pellets or fibres.

The bottle top, made of HDPE plastic, will also go through the same process of chopping, washing, melting, and extrusion. It comes out on the other side of the extrusion process like long strings of plastic spaghetti, which are then cut into plastic pellets.

Then the last step is repurposing.

The rPET fibres/pellets and HDPE pellets are then sold back into the economy to become new materials. rPET (recycled PET) fibres/pellets can be made into clothing. They might also become plastic sheets or food packaging punnets, or be used for the production of new bottles such as food grade plastic water bottles or non-food grade products like dishwashing liquid bottles. Similarly, those HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) pellets can be used for a wide variety of things, like new closures and caps, bags, plates, animal tags, and other injection moulded products.

The same principle applies for paper, glass or aluminium - collecting, sorting, weighing, bailing, and finally - recycling or repurposing those materials for new, fresh value within the economy.

How do I know if on-site waste management is right for my company?

To some degree, we hate to say it: but size does matter. If you’re a small business, then your carbon footprint may not yet merit an on-site waste provider’s services. But this could be a good thing, you’re in a good position at this stage of your business to probe and unpack the way you do things, and possibly make some changes to grow the sustainable health of your organisation.

On the other hand, if your company is leaving behind some big footprints and draining your budget in some unneeded ways, you could stand to gain hugely from a waste management service. With the right partner like WastePlan, your company could see fresh new value open up, along with more margin in your budget to spend on the things that leave the right kind of legacy behind. 

Interested to know more about how your company can benefit from on-site waste management? Click below to request a waste audit so that we can assess your company’s current waste management performance.

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Bertie Lourens

Author Bertie Lourens

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