How can consumers imagine their waste becoming a new product, serving a new purpose or even being green when it looks so dirty and disgusting? With a new mindset and habits, it is possible to move from waste collection to a future of materials management.
By Justin Blazer
Clean trash is a concept for revamping how customers perceive waste prior to collection. It represents a mindset shift away from nasty waste bins, contaminated recyclables and littered streets/waterways to a future of clean bins that support an advanced materials recovery process. How can consumers imagine their waste, in any form, becoming a new product or serving a new purpose when it looks so dirty and disgusting? Could clean trash be the key to tapping into a high-value stream of inbound materials?
Clean trash extends the well-known waste hierarchy of Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It is a catch-all for handling waste and recycling to promote successful recovery. Clean trash can spark conversations and build a new understanding of daily disposal habits. It drives innovation directly to the consumer by optimizing how residents/businesses interact with their waste collector.
Clean trash can be broken down into three core principles: Sort. Sanitize. Secure. With these three principles, we can work together towards a future of cleaner communities where high-value recycling and waste is safe to collect at all times.
The first pillar of clean trash is proper sorting. Curbside recycling began in the 1970s and the conversation around sorting is still prominent. Sorting found new life with the introduction of cost-effective single-stream recycling systems in the 1990s. Complicated sorting was made simple, but it also opened the opportunity for increased wishcycling. In recent years, proper sorting experienced renewed importance due to changing recovered material markets. Recycling, compost, and even trash need to be properly sorted in order to keep costs down and workers safe. For customers, sorted clean trash will mean their recyclables go to good use and their bills go down.
There are two ways to take on the problem of sorting: educating customers and providing tools for success. Non-profits, haulers and organizations across the nation are dedicated to helping students in school learn how to properly recycle. We are on the path to a future of properly sorted, clean trash.
When it comes to adults, education is more complicated. Your captive audience is gone and now you have to maintain interest. Reaching customers can be difficult; even the largest companies around fight to maintain a meaningful social media following. Consumers do not want to see “trash” on their timelines. Could they be interested in clean trash? Could they be interested in tools to get the job done right?
How to promote sorted clean trash:
1. Run engaging social media with coordinated posts about waste company guidance and encourage followers to share their wisdom with friends and neighbors.
2. Send mailers/stickers/magnets to customers explaining disposal guidelines.
3. Use dynamic digital applications to keep your customers up-to-date with the latest guidelines and recommendations:
• An interactive webpage for your community/service area showing what can and cannot be recycled.
• Use/develop a waste services app to educate customers in your area.
4. Keep customers up-to-date with the impact of their efforts by letting them know where their recyclables end up.
5. Help customers equip their homes and business with the proper tools to recycle right (from box cutters to automated sorting machines).
In March of this year, sanitizing jumped to the forefront of the trash conversation. We always knew our trash was dirty and disgusting. Suddenly, we were caught wondering if it is even safe to touch. Haulers made adjustments for worker health and safety. Some continued as usual with heightened awareness, some encouraged proper bagging and sanitizing high-touch areas of carts, and others asked for double-bagged sanitized trash to be taken to the bin with gloves on and then the cart be sanitized.
Where will the line be drawn moving forward? What is the proper baseline for acceptable sanitized trash? All it takes is one bad bin and a pair of gloves is no longer sanitary. Unlike other professions, gloves are not always disposable. What can consumers do to create clean trash?
To begin, we know sorting is required for proper disposal. Sorting and sanitizing overlap when we speak about rinsing out trash/recyclables. The dirty yogurt cup contaminates recycling and picking up moldy litter is not on the list of ideal activities for frontline employees. Rinsed recyclables and bagged waste are the cleanest ways to dispose. Encouraging customers to adopt a clean trash mindset could encourage them to treat their trash differently.
How to promote sanitized clean trash:
1. Encourage customers to bag all of their trash with an emphasis on household medical waste.
2. Recyclables should be rinsed prior to being loaded into collection container.
3. Bins, dumpsters and other containers areas should be cleaned regularly.
4. The entire waste storage area is kept clean (litter and grime free) to prevent pest infestations and odor buildup:
Explore Waste Advantage Magazine’s June 2020 issue and the article “Fighting Container Odor and Contamination” for more information on devices designed to keep the inside of containers sanitized.
5. Equip dumpsters with tools to prevent users from needing to touch the container.
The final pillar of a clean trash mindset is to secure waste storage. We can achieve litter free communities by securing bins that leak litter into their surrounding environment. Unsecure trash cans in areas prone to pests, wind or overflow create a mess for everyone. Secure trash is about making sure all materials placed at the curb for pickup make it to their final destination. Clean trash means materials do not get lost and become litter prior to collection.
There are concrete steps to make sure any trash container is secure. First, there needs to be enough room to fit all of your waste into provided containers. If there is not enough room, then you will either need a tool to shut the lid and fit more waste or another container. If additional containers are not an option, the best way to securely store trash is in a thick black garbage bags; some brands even offer scented bags to ward of pests.
For pest, wind and overflowing bin problems attaching a lid lock mechanism can help to cut back on the effects of these problems. See the May 2020 edition of Waste Advantage Magazine for an article introducing the various types of locking mechanisms and how they can go to use on your customers’ carts.
How to promote secure clean trash:
• Have enough bins to fit everything on collection day
• Allow customers to use tools that enable them to fit more waste into one bin
• Equip containers ravaged by pests, wind and overflow with locking mechanisms
• Ensure dumpsters are in a fenced in area, preferably atop a concrete pad
• Fence in or create foundations for cans to keep them in place
The Future of Trash is Here
Clean trash is a mindset designed to change how we view waste. Instead of throwing away trash, we are adding materials back into a circular system where they will return to us as usable goods or fuel industrial processes. Altogether, clean trash supports the idea that change is possible. Education leads the charge, but it is up to innovators and haulers to work together to design tools that support a future of clean and efficient trash collection. | WA
Justin Blazer is the Head of Product Development and Operations at Blazer Brand LLC (Pittsburgh, PA). He and his brother invented Blazer Brand’s first product, the Strong Strap, a garbage can utility strap (U.S. Pat. No. 10,294,022). He leads Blazer Brand in developing innovative consumer tools for clean, green and secure waste streams. Justin can be reached at (412) 252-2114 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blazer Brand is always seeking new projects/products/partnerships in addition to its current offerings For more information e-mail email@example.com or visit blazerbrand.com.