Storage: Recycling Logistics, Part 2
In part one of this blog post, I talked about some of the logistics of shipping stuff to its final mill or end-market. As noted, it takes a fair amount of stuff to be able to ship it directly to market. Typically, that means storing in the interim, either at your site or at some sort of intermediate facility.
Storing stuff, at least commercially, can be harder than you think. When you grow up with a family member that is a borderline hoarder, that can be a surprising realization. After all, if one person can store every issue of Consumer Reports since 1978 just in case they need to look up a review of something they buy at a yard/tag/garage sale (I wish I was making that part up), you would think that a campus of 10,000 could fairly easily store a trailer-load of baled paper in order to ship it to market. But storage might be a bit harder than you think. If you are new to logistics and considering a system that will involve the storage of recyclables, hopefully the following info can give you some items to consider. Just be aware that this list is general and may not be comprehensive enough so be sure to check your local zoning and other regulations.
Before you consider your storage and transfer options, remember that each time you put something down and have to pick it back up, you are adding cost to your system. That includes labor costs, facility costs, and other costs. The more such steps there are between you and your end-market, the more of the resource value of your product will get lost to logistics and the less will be available to come back to you as the generator of the discarded material.
When you start thinking about storage, one of the first things to think about is whether you are looking to store stuff indoors or outdoors. Ultimately, your decision might depend on where you are. If you are in a relatively warm and dry climate, you might not need to consider protecting materials from rain and snow. In those cases, indoor storage might not be necessary. However, if you routinely get enough snow that cars get swallowed by snow banks, you may need to consider some sort of indoor storage, or at least covered storage.
If you need indoor or covered storage, another consideration is whether you are looking at a temporary or permanent structure. Before making any decisions, be sure to check out the building codes and fire codes in your area, as well as your insurer’s policies regarding the different structures. They might be significantly different for “permanent” structures.
Duration of storage is one of the biggest storage-related issues. What you have to store will likely impact how long you can store it. If you have something combustible, fire safety concerns may dictate how long you can store items. If you have something putrescible like food waste, your storage duration is likely to be pretty short. Pest and odor concerns and the impacts thereof on neighbors is likely to keep you from storing that putrescible material for too long.
Another significant consideration is security. Maybe you have something valuable enough that someone might steal it. Or just as importantly (or perhaps more so), for liability and insurance reasons, maybe you want to keep people away from your storage area so that no one gets hurt. If you have 1,000 lb bales of stuff stacked 2-3 bales high, it is not a minor issue if a bale happened to fall on anyone. Fencing that bale storage area or at least posting it as a no trespassing area may be a necessary step to protect you from a really big problem later on.
One of the biggest issues to prepare for is fire-safety related issues. First, check with your local fire department about local zoning and reporting requirements. Some have local zoning criteria that require you to report to them any dumpster or consolidation area over a certain size so they can at least know where such dumpsters are and adequately prepare themselves if there is a fire in that area. Just be prepared that as is the way of things, such zoning typically involves some sort of permit application and accompanying fee.
Fire safety guidelines may also necessitate certain fire safety and suppression requirements on site as well. For any permanent structure, that likely includes a fire alarm and sprinkler system. Don’t overlook the impact this can have on the cost of a project. I have seen million dollar projects in which the majority of the cost was related to the fire suppression and alarm systems.
However, even temporary or outdoor storage sites should have certain fire protection and suppression equipment. That includes radios or cell phones for crews to report fires, fire extinguishers (note that you also likely need an extinguisher for each vehicle on site), pikes or poles to separate smoldering material from other combustible materials; and verifiable training and protocols regarding what to do in the event of a fire (including notification, evacuation, etc.). Just remember that your two most important priorities should always be notifying the fire department and getting everyone out of the area safely.
Whether or not you will be considered a transfer station may also be an important consideration. Many areas allow for, or are at least silent about, “consolidation areas” on a campus – a place where you can site a central roll-off, compactor, or baler – provided that such consolidation area is on campus, under a certain size threshold, and accepting only campus material. However, in other regions, or if you take any material from off campus, such areas may be considered full scale transfer stations which may trigger a whole host of other inspection and permitting requirements. The difference between a storage area and a transfer station can seem pretty minor, so it is important to note differences. I know roll-off truck operators who had permission to store a load of stuff in their truck at their shop overnight but who later got dinged for a transfer station violation because they made the mistake of lowering the roll-off box off the back of the truck. Nothing left or went into the roll-off box, but the minute it touched the ground and then was hoisted back onto the truck, that site got considered a transfer station.
Another consideration regarding your site has to do with the impacts of your site on the surrounding area. What could be coming off of your site that needs to be managed in order to minimize the impacts on your neighbors. One of those considerations is litter. What do you have at your storage site that could blow around, and potentially blow onto a neighbor’s site? What do you have for screening, both vegetative and fencing to prevent that from happening? Another consideration is runoff. Whether it is from an erosion control perspective or the perspective of carrying pollutants in the water, you are likely to need some sort of plan to deal with storm water. Depending on your size and what you have on site, that may be as little as a vegetative or riparian buffer area, or it may involve something more deliberate and elaborate including swales, trenches, and inlet protection devices.
As I mentioned in part 1 of this post, whether or not something is viably recyclable often comes down to logistics. And whether your goal is increased recycling, sustainability, zero waste, or some combination of all of the above understanding these logistics, and all the steps therein will help you determine which materials and which options should be part of your program.