Trash Compactors and Recycling

February 2024

How we dispose of waste in high-rise communities is a pressing concern impacting on or by climate change, population growth and fewer resources.

Municipalities often manage waste collection while requiring residential buildings to arrange and pay for private collection.  Single family homes receive regular visits from a garbage truck that comes down the street.  Trash is thrown into the back and compressed using a hydraulic press.  Municipalities have established rules affecting the sorting of waste and what is accepted by these vehicles.  Between pickups, waste must be temporarily stored and brought to the curb for pickup.

Waste collection works differently in high-rise communities. Many have a trash chute on each floor.  Others require residents to bring their waste – trash and recycling – to a central area.  A trash compactor is used to compress waste for efficient storage and pickup.

Waste disposal is poorly controlled in high-rise communities.  Sorting of recycling and organics is encouraged and not enforced.  Bins, once filled, need to be stored, moved to an area for pickup, and returned for resident use.  Poor waste management practices cause odour, sanitation and pest problems.

Trash chutes are impossible to control.  Waste going down the chute gets crushed with no way to separate recycled items that should have been disposed of in a different manner.  Many residents find it convenient to not separate recycling from trash.

Trash chutes need to be monitored for pests, odours and large items that should be disposed of in a different manner.  Boxes that have not been broken down can block the chute, damage the sensor system or burn out the compactor motor.  Ensuring the system is not compromised requires constant attention in the form of regular maintenance including cleaning and clearing of blockages when residents stuff oversized items through the opening.

When waste is picked up, recyclables mixed with trash increases disposal costs.  Many communities rely on private services for trash pickup and “free” city services for recycling.  Poorly sorted recycling can result in denial of pickup.  All waste must then be picked up by private services at a higher cost.  Mixed recyclables are more expensive to dispose of than those that are properly separated.

The best approach is to have one disposal system for trash.  Recycled items are best disposed of in a central area with separate containers for paper, plastic and glass.  Electronics, paint and other dangerous materials should be separated from trash and recycling.  Some communities require residents to make separate arrangements for removal of medical waste which includes sharp items, medication, and other items which can be a danger to others.

Waste management is a necessary part of the health and safety of a community.  Rules on how to manage and dispose of waste exist for protecting residents and the environment.