How To Calculate the Weight of Your Recyclable Commodities


recyclemoney3Is there any value in the waste your business generates? Chances are good the answer is a definite YES. In previous blog posts, we've discussed why diverting as much weight away from your solid waste stream and into your single-stream recycling saves money on trash hauling bills. Simply put, commercial single-stream is cheaper to dispose of than solid waste because there are no tipping fees. For every ton of waste you move from the trash to the recycling stream, you save an average of $45. Take a look at your company's waste bill. How many tons do you pay to have hauled each month? You could be literally throwing money away. 

Your waste partner makes money by sorting your recyclable commodities into grades and selling them to manufacturers. But if you generate enough of any recyclable commoditity, it's cost-effective to invest in the equipment to grade and weigh them yourself. The rebate you negotiate from your waste partner is added revenue for your company. You may be surprised what you can recycle: even foam packing and shrink wrap have value in today's market. 

Here's how one of our partners, a major food manufacturer, saved on landfill fees and earned new revenue from diverting and recycling plastic bags for an annual revenue impact of 86K:Manufacturer's Increased Waste Diversion = 86K Annual Revenue Impact

The trick is: how do you know what you have? How do you most accurately calculate the weight of recyclable commodities that are currently being diverted to the trash? There's a bit of an art to it; start with figuring out the percentage, by volume, of any given recyclable commodity currently taking up room in your trash stream. It's tempting to eyeball the contents of your dumpster and then estimate the volume of material. For example, for an 8-yard dumpster that appears to be half-full of EPS foam, you'd guess you were throwing out about 4 yards of EPS. There are two problems with this method:

  1. The bigger the container, the more difficult it is identify all the material
  2. We have a natural tendency to overestimate. That 4 yards of EPS is more than likely only 2 or 3.

The most accurate method is to take several gaylord boxes and do a timed measurement. First, divert all of one recyclable commodity for a day, a week, a manufacturing cycle, or whatever period of time makes sense to your business. 

Second, calculate the weight of the material you collected. Estimate that 1 gaylord box holds 1.5 cubic yards. Here are weights for some common loose, uncompacted recyclables:

mixed paper grades/junk mail 1300 lbs
loose newsprint 900 lbs
office paper 600 lbs
loose PET soda bottles 45 lbs
whole steel cans 225 lbs
whole aluminum containers 90 lbs
The final step is multiplying the weight you collected by the number of days, weeks, or manufacturing cycles in your waste hauling billing cycle. NOW you have an accurate monthly weight your business generates of any recyclable commodity.

Did you know you should never let your waste hauling partner supply your recycling equipment? Find out why - along with other Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue - by downloading our free report. 

7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue