Getting the Data Out of Your Dumpsters

“I want to report more detailed data on my waste and recycling for GRESB, but it is so difficult to gather the information.”  

Does this sound familiar?  If it does, you are not alone.

Why is it so challenging to access accurate and reliable waste data?  Let’s examine how waste is measured and tracked using current practices: 

  1. Accessibility.  Waste data is not readily accessible or available.  To date, there has been no way to understand what is going on at the dumpster.  We meter energy, we meter water, but we have yet to meter waste as a resource in any consistent manner.  When attempting to compile data on waste generation at any given site, a variety of sources need to be aggregated. Sources can be such things as scales on trucks, weight tags from the landfill, hauler estimates, manual waste audits, custodial feedback and more.  Much of this data is hard to collect on a consistent basis, nor does it give you the full picture of what is going on in your dumpsters.
  2. Accuracy.  You can conduct a waste audit, which is typically done annually and for a 24-hour period of what a site generates.  This gets extrapolated to come up with a generation number for your site for the entire year.  There are many assumptions made and an audit doesn’t take into account seasonality, growth of the business, changes in material flow or other factors impacting your waste generation throughout the year. You can work with your hauler to get monthly data.  This data is also based on a number of assumptions, including how much waste and recycling you are generating in the first place, that your dumpster was 100% full at time of collection and other factors.  The data coming back from your haulers may give you a false sense that you are performing well when reality may be different.
  3. Year Over Year Improvement. It is challenging to access and get a full accounting of your waste and recycling data.  And the data you are able to obtain is typically based on assumptions about your generation patterns.  So how do you improve year over year?  How do you compare one site to another and share best practices?  Once an opportunity to change behavior or services is identified and implemented, how do you verify that you’ve achieved your projected goals?

If you can’t determine how much you are generating, not only are you going to have a tough time reporting accurate numbers to GRESB, the data doesn’t lead you to actions that can help increase recycling and reduce costs.

In the waste industry, we are finding on average that 9% of collections that were scheduled are not delivered, 21% of commercial real estate sites need to adjust their service levels up (to prevent overflows) or down (to save money). These numbers alone are incentive to take action.  It is time for real estate companies to take matters into their own hands and demand better data, analytics and reporting from their waste and recycling service providers.  It’s time to expect more out of the waste industry and move beyond the status quo.  

This article is written by Geoff Aardsma at Enevo.

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