Best Practices for Waste Management: Compaction-at-the-Source

Recently, during a discussion involving analysts who cover the food manufacturing industry, one of the analysts observed that "everybody has the same strategy, so it really comes down to execution - who can innovate with new products, who has a culture of cost cutting, who has the size and scale, and how do they go to market with the retailer."

Historically, cost cutting programs in the industry concentrated heavily on lowering labor costs; however, any major category of spending offers opportunities for cost savings. One often over-looked area is waste management. Waste removal costs are always rising - landfills all across the country are reaching the end of their lifespan, recycling is getting more complicated and expensive, and of course rising fuel costs aren't borne by the waste haulers; they're simply passed on to the customers.

There are many different waste management solutions available for the food manufacturing industry, however, it is not advisable to wait for the waste hauling companies to discuss them - the typical commercial waste hauling and recycling firms have a direct financial disincentive towards helping food manufacturers reduce the volume of waste and associated disposal costs.

Waste disposal is often regarded as an uncomplicated process: Workers collect and sort trash from recycling, then run loads out to the dumpster several times a day or shift. The trash is collected by a contracted waste hauler at regularly scheduled times. However, plant owners, managers, maintenance directors and operations personnel know better. For them, waste management can be a major nuisance, posing issues that impact safety, efficiency, available floor space, and even employee morale, as excess trash accumulates.

In addition, production demands vary, and pick up charges remain the same, whether the dumpster is full or not. In fact, research shows that up to 80% of a "full" dumpster is "air space," meaning that 80 cents of every dollar spent on waste collecting services is, quite literally, thrown away.

But there are ways to improve waste handling in the food manufacturing industry to the extent that it not only leads to reduced costs but also enhances operations. Those responsible for making the waste process more efficient and cost effective are familiar with the various options that have been available for the past few years.

According to Richard Danko, a consultant to the baking industry, a few baking companies are turning to industrial trash compactors. "We call it 'Compaction at the Source' and it is a proven way to reduce costs and eliminate inefficiencies in solid waste management and removal." Danko continued, "We recommend to clients a commercial-grade waste compactor that is designed to take up no more floor space than a standard pallet, and enables them to compact the waste right at the source-just off the assembly line or conveyor belt or at the beginning of the process when 50-pound bags are opened."

Companies who apply Compaction at the Source can eliminate the need for constant waste removal; reduce the amount of labor required to monitor waste and empty waste containers; reduce hauling costs by providing a 6:1 compaction rate; improve employee morale with cleaner conditions and lessen the risk profile for industrial accidents.

Elements most often associated with an efficient industrial trash compactor for the food manufacturing industry include:

• Small Profile: Compacting equipment should consume minimal floor space. A good rule of thumb is a 4 x 5 footprint.
• Ease-of-Use: The equipment should not require constant supervision or a skilled operator.
• Portability: The equipment should be easily transportable, by forklift, throughout the plant or warehouse facility to address excessive areas of waste for short periods of time. Low impact-the equipment must operate quietly.
• Continual Compaction: The compactor should be able to run intermittently or continually (24/7) to accommodate shift and production needs.
•Wet or Dry Waste: The equipment should be able to handle both wet and dry waste materials-separate or combined.

Although waste compaction is just one element of the overall effort towards better waste management, it is the first and most crucial step towards creating cleaner, safer and more efficient production facilities across the food management industry, and it is a proven strategy for reducing overall cost of operations.