How Tech is Tackling Multifamily’s Growing Mountain of Trash
The never-ending flood of supplies is causing many new headaches for multi-family building managers. The most obvious thing to do is to accept these now essential supplies safely and in an organized manner. Another problem that is much more of a back office problem is the mountain of trash it can create. This mountain is made of cardboard and removable containers. If you add that to all of the junk generated by a building full of residents stuck at home for a year, you now have a problem the size of a landfill.
For many residential buildings, more frequent rubbish shipments, contamination fines, cleaning fees, and recycling fees all affect the bottom line. Now, a relatively simple piece of PropTech provides multi-family owners with a tool to help solve their trash problems.
The pandemic took a bad problem and made it worse. Before we went into lockdown, Americans generated three times the global average of waste per capita, producing around 1,700 pounds of garbage each year. To make matters worse, the United States is the only nation where waste generation exceeds its recyclability. America only recycles 35 percent of its solid waste. Put simply, America generates the most garbage and recycles the least. The Solid Waste Association of North America, which is already piling waste to the skies in landfills across the country, estimates municipal waste has increased 38 percent since the pandemic began. Multi-family garbage containers, garbage chutes and garbage cans bear the brunt of the dilapidated deluge.
“Waste management in apartment buildings is high up, we’re seeing more additional services and more collections during the pandemic. There has been a huge increase in parcel lockers, which is a high level of convenience. The problem is what happens to the box? “Mary Nitschke, Vice President, Sustainability at RealPage, said.” You have this situation where this box is thrown in a dumpster. Now 73 percent of the material in a dumpster is uncollapsed cardboard, to get a feel for the scale of the problem to get. ”
Uncollpased paperboard creates what waste management calls artificial fullness. The dumpster looks full, but it isn’t. The freight forwarders will pick you up anyway and charge you the full price. By preventing unnecessary pickups, overcharges, and fines, a multi-family community can save thousands per month because multi-family trash removal works differently than it does for a single family. If you’re a homeowner, you know when it is garbage day. It’s not as simple as a weekly visit to the apartment building garbage truck. You have both planned and needs-based pickups with one garbage truck and another for recycling. The complexities of multi-family waste disposal mean that improper disposal can cost thousands of surpluses, fines, and fees.
In-dumpster cameras equipped with AI technology give the problem literal visibility. It’s very simple, a camera in a dumpster that takes pictures eight times a day. AI can then identify 11 different types of material in that dumpster. When a problem is detected, a work order is automatically generated and sent to on-site maintenance with a picture and a brief description of the problem. One of the companies that does this is Stratis IoT. They worked with Compology and developed a technology with their cameras that can detect garbage bags, tanglers, e-waste, propane tanks, styrofoam, bulk materials, wood, concrete, floor, metal, people and yes. not collapsed carton. With motion sensors, you will likely get some pictures of raccoons too.
When we’re away from home and generating more rubbish, wrong recycling increases and fines for pollution increase exponentially. “In the world of apartment buildings, you can see fines for contamination of up to $ 2,000 per month that accumulate very quickly,” said Nitschke. “You have no idea it will happen until you get the bill, you are completely reactive at that point.”
Typically, the carrier evaluates contamination fines when they find a non-recyclable item in recycling and takes a picture as evidence of the cargo. Instead of getting a picture from the carrier, there is nothing you can do about it. In-dumpster cameras provide the image first, so that the employees on site have the opportunity to do something about it before the carrier carries out the collection. Stratus IoT claims their cameras can resolve 63 percent of contamination incidents before the carrier arrives. “It is a mechanism for reducing waste and recycling,” said Nitschke. By reducing fines, reducing the number of non-collapsed cardboard boxes, and cutting out additional pickups, in-dumpster cameras can help a multi-family community reduce waste costs by 10 to 37 percent. In total, the technology can save more than $ 1,800 per dumpster each year. That’s only half of it. Waste reduction and better recycling are critical to sustainability.
Solving garbage problems is about saving money and saving the planet. Once it’s picked up, the rubbish is taken to a landfill or incinerated. Even most of the “recycling” is not used for other purposes. China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, no longer content with being the world’s garbage dump, recently banned the import of waste and brought the global recycling industry to its knees on a massive scale. With fewer disposal options, more waste will be diverted to landfill sites and facilities that incinerate waste for power generation. Neither is the best option. Waste incineration plants produce fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, but less than natural gas, according to the EPA. There is not much that the multi-family industry can do to solve problems with the global waste supply chain, but each complex can play its part in solving local problems with the supply chain.
Reporting of litter and diversions is becoming an issue in several cities and states as regulations change. City ordinances known as diversion reports require multi-family complexes to report waste numbers. Most of the time, the reported numbers are what Nitschke calls “cheap math”. Without a clue what is in a dumpster or how full it is, the math is based on assumptions that lead to inaccurate numbers. They don’t take into account things like missed service events, which happened 10 to 20 percent of the time.
Even freight forwarders themselves cannot submit a detailed waste report. You can deliver weight, that’s about it. There is no way to report what was picked up. With cameras capable of identifying waste types and dumpster capacities, software can be used to accurately calculate waste diversion based on what actually happened rather than based on assumptions. Think of it like an electricity meter for your dumpster.
The cameras can’t catch anyone in the act, which would create privacy issues. But it gives real estate staff an opportunity to fix the problem. Nobody asks staff to jump in the dumpster, but if a box can be ripped out and broken down, a massive problem can be solved. Changing the behavior of tenants has been difficult, as we learned last year. Compliance is not an American characteristic. Most complexes have simple rules or instructions for garbage disposal, but residents don’t like handling doors or lids in garbage areas and often leave them where they should be.
This is a particular problem with trash compactors, which is becoming more and more common. Some communities will even punish residents for non-compliance. However, enforcement creates undue tension between management and residents. Other complexes have completely given up hope of compliance and have opted for valet parking. This also creates problems, the hallways are full of rubbish and valet parking is often no easier. Residents aren’t keen on valet parking either, especially when the cost is passed on to them.
Garbage is heavy, so the problem remains. No solution can handle the scale of the crisis. This may seem like a back-of-house problem, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Garbage collection areas in a multi-family complex are the common space most frequented by residents. The reality is that residents visit garbage collection facilities one to eight times a week. How a complex picks up garbage has one of its biggest effects on residents, and gives operators a real opportunity to stand out from the competition.
Finding out how we can work more efficiently with our garbage is a win-win for everyone involved. Tenants have an easier process, local staff have fewer headaches, marketing can promote sustainable practices, owners can cut waste disposal costs, and hauliers have fewer problems, and everyone is helping the environment. It’s time for the multi-family industry to give the garbage the same level of thought it gave to deliveries. Our planet depends on it.