Eliminating Desk Side Trash Cans in Your Office

In a LinkedIn Facilities Management Group discussion, we discussed how companies are cleaning up the individual workspace garbage in exchange for centrally located garbage collection areas. Whoa, you might say. You mean the employee would actually have to tend to disposing of their own garbage? It sounds incredulous, but it also sounds smart, and may save money too.

The theme is if your staff can walk to deposit sensitive documents in centrally located bins, walk to a central printer, or get a cup of coffee, they can certainly empty their own trash.

One method described is to implement a “four channel waste disposal system.” Your staff can have a very small can for immediate waste and empty them as part of their regular walk around the office. Your strategy should be based on the size of the office, number of workstations, and staff density.

Central waste stations are placed in traffic areas for ease of access. This utilizes existing staff traffic to dispose waste and allows sorting of waste at the source of its creation.

  • Blue recycling bins hold “clean” paper
  • Yellow bins are used for “mixed recycling”
  • Green bins are for compost
  • Red bins are for regular trash.

A very small can stay at each employees desk and the employee empties their trash at the end of the day. The custodial crew picks up the trash from central areas nightly or depending upon the frequency you have set.

Savings are achieved by less custodial time having to go to each desk to collect the trash; no new liners per bin per desk, saves money on waste hauling fees and the recycling companies may pick up the recycling for free. In some cases they may even offer a rebate which in turn offsets waste hauling fees and janitorial labor.

One facility manager describes the keys to success as:

  • To have enough bins that they are not far to walk similar to a pantry or print station
  • The bins should blend with the overall office design e.g. enclosed in a cabinet
  • Signage is clear for the various types of waste

Removing individual desk bins is one of the easiest wins in terms of reducing your cleaning and waste management costs. As one FM mentions, it can save 10% of the labor required for daily office cleaning.

For new spaces and relocation’s, if the policy is set Day 1, the buy in is almost guaranteed. In an existing space, you may be met initially with “you want me to walk how far for what?”  But if you inform your staff ahead of the change along with educational material describing the reasoning, it should not be difficult to implement.

As mindsets have changed and people have embraced recycling concepts, the question now is often “Why do we not centrally recycle?” If the staff already get up multiple times for coffee, tea, bathroom and cigarettes breaks, taking their trash with them should not be a difficult task to require.

Richard Neuman is an Owner’s Rep and Move Consultant with NY based Relocation Management Solutions, Inc. www.relocationmanagement.com

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1 Comment on Eliminating Desk Side Trash Cans in Your Office

  1. Bob Washburn // April 21, 2014 at 3:01 am // Reply

    We tried this at a University and got slammed. We had central recycling, but picked up trash when we cleaned offices. The result was that even though 95 – 99% of the waste being generated in the offices was recyclable the actual recycling rate was abysmal. Since about the only waste generated in private offices that can’t be recycled is food waste, and it really shouldn’t sit until our weekly cleaning, we thought there was a good argument to switch and collect recycling at the desk and garbage centrally. We dominated the faculty listserv for weeks. “I didn’t go to college to haul trash” was one of the printable comments. The compromise was we would pick up both. Recycling rates jumped to about 40%, but most of the trash was still recyclable if the occupant had cared. Post sorting was not feasible within available staffing.

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