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edition 3 (188)
March 2014
Facility Management

What a waste

In search of the best form of effective waste management in commercial buildings

Rafał Ostrowski

What a waste
Paweł Herman (Stena Recycling)

Facility managers have been trying to figure out how to manage refuse ecologically, effectively and cheaply. The obstacles include logistical problems, persistent bad habits and, more recently, tighter regulations

It’s the rush hour, people are hurrying to work and a half-street-long traffic jam has been formed by a dustcart blocking the entrance to a car park – no self-respecting office facility manager should ever let this happen. Such congestion can easily build up in the narrow streets of the city centre, the location of many office buildings in the form of renovated tenement blocks. Fortunately, waste collection firms are prepared to make considerable sacrifices in the fight for their market share. “We are adjusting to clients, both in terms of timing and the days of our arrival – we work seven days a week and also at night if necessary,” says Aneta Andruszko, a key account service specialist at Byś, which has been involved in waste disposal in the Warsaw area for over thirty years. Sometimes a specialised vehicle is needed that is lower or narrower to be able to go through a gate. “Some companies have such equipment. They are also prepared to retrieve waste bins from bin shelters and underground car parks so that you don’t need to worry about making them accessible,” explains Magdalena Oksańska, an associate director at Knight Frank. And when the manager fails to put the bins out on time, these firms often return without charging any extra fees for the service. “We are a private company. Our operations are based on a flexible approach to service provision. We cannot afford to charge a customer for a job that has not been done,” claims Aneta Andruszko. If the manager is in charge of, say, thirty buildings in one city, their bargaining power with waste collectors can be particularly strong. “Thanks to the economy of scale I am able to negotiate certain provisions of the contract and choose the service that best fits our needs,” adds Magdalena Oksańska of Knight Frank.

Offices created for ecology
According to Paweł Herman, a project specialist at Stena Recycling: “As much as 70–75 pct of waste from office buildings can be recycled.” One characteristic feature of office buildings is the fact that they generate a lot of dry waste, such as paper and cardboard from parcels sent by post, which can be easily recycled. In smaller amounts there is also the plastic wrap from packaging, as well as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and glass bottles. “We collect waste paper from office buildings free of charge. Sometimes we make arrangements with the individual tenants of the buildings and sometimes with the manager for the collection of the paper from the entire facility,” explains Piotr Zieliński, a production and logistics specialist at Baj-Pros, which operates in the Warsaw area. The company has installed its own containers in the offices it services. It arrives within two days of being informed by phone. Importantly, it is possible to mix office paper, cardboard and metal paperclips as well as, occasionally, plastic punched pockets. “Our company sorts everything before it is sent to the paper mill,” explains Piotr Zieliński. Stena Recycling offers a much more complicated segregation system. The Swedish company provides sorters – special 'Multisort' cupboards for sorting waste – to offices. The most sophisticated ones allow the rubbish to be segregated into eleven categories. If they want to get rid of something, office workers first need to open a special cupboard marked paper, metal, hazardous waste or plastic – and only then can they throw the rubbish away. “The opening of the compartments is an additional activity that facilitates rubbish sorting because it breaks our habit of throwing everything into one bin. Due to this the sorting of rubbish can be made more efficient with sorting systems furniture that is itself aesthetic,” says Paweł Herman. The sorter is emptied regularly and the waste then moved to suitable containers at the bottom of the building, where it is loaded onto a truck. Although Stena collects the rubbish free of charge, other costs have to be picked up by the client: they have to lease the segregators from the company as well as the bins in the shelters or rooms and, if needed, additional equipment such as industrial document shredders or balers, that compact the rubbish for transportation. According to Stena’s estimates the system costs PLN 250–350 per sqm of office, which translates into a cost of PLN 0.25–0.35 per sqm if it is included in the service charge. The cost does not include hiring a person to be exclusively responsible for the waste management of larger facilities (of several thousand square metres). However, due to the fact that employing such a person releases the cleaning service from their responsibility for the waste, there is a shift in the costs, rather than just accruing more of them. The differences in cost ultimately result from the terms of the individual contracts. “We establish a scale of cooperation subject to the amount and type of waste generated, the number of systems, the equipment required and the area available in the bin shelters/rooms as well as the distance the lorries need to travel to reach a given client,” explains Paweł Herman.

All in one sack
However, not every building is suitable for a sophisticated waste management system. Sometimes the size of the bin shelters/rooms is an obstacle in the sorting of the waste. “There are offices, particularly those located in old tenement houses, often historic ones, where we have such small bin shelters/rooms that there is not enough room for more than one waste container. So before the fees can be reduced by the waste segregation, there is also a logistical issue that needs to be solved first,” says Magdalena Oksańska of Knight Frank. Besides, some facility managers assume that the waste segregation issue is not only their decision but also a choice of the tenants, whose opinions need to be taken into account. “It is an issue which should be agreed on with the tenants: you need to take into consideration what they expect and try to be as ecological as possible while respecting their views. If someone does not want to do it, I cannot force them to throw plastic into one container and paper into another,” says Magdalena Oksańska. It turns out that even those who cannot or do not want to sort waste can be successful in obtaining ecological certificates. Because waste sorting can be outsourced. For example, Byś, which has the largest waste sorting plant in Warsaw, issues certificates for facility managers to show that the rubbish produced in their buildings has been properly segregated. The certificates are respected by the institutions involved in certifying buildings under the LEED and BREEAM systems. “The waste goes onto conveyors a few kilometres long and then it is pressed. We have machines that can separate plastic wrap into a number of colours and segregate cardboard and paper according to its thickness. We are able to retrieve individual pins or paper clips from the rubbish. No manual recycling is so efficient,” declares Aneta Andruszko of Byś. Throwing everything into one sack is quite a convenience for the tenants on the one hand, but it also has its drawbacks. First of all, because the waste can get dirty. “Paper mixed with leftover food should never be earmarked for recycling. When it is smeared with grease it is not suitable for recycling because paper mills will not accept it. It is only suitable as an alternative fuel,” explains the project specialist from Stena Recycling. Stena’s idea is based around the very precise sorting of waste at the source, i.e. in offices, shopping centres, at building sites and in industrial plants. Waste that is segregated in this way goes directly to the paper mills and foundries in the form of clean material. The less additional effort needed to sort the rubbish after it is collected from the client, the better. This is why Stena supervises the education of office workers, because this process is based on the quality of the segregation. According to the company’s representatives, sorting at the source is the least time consuming and, as a result, the most ecological and cheapest part of the process. Some facility managers try to combine both solutions. “We segregate the things that are possible to separate in the building because the recycling material is cleaner and better. What is left is recycled in the sorting plant,” says Zuzanna Paciorkiewicz, the director of the business space property management department at DTZ.

Malls have a problem
“In shopping centres in Poland they still do not attach much weight to waste management and in this respect we are behind, for instance, the Scandinavian countries,” says Paweł Herman. However, it turns out that sorting rubbish in malls is not easy. The things that are possible to recycle mostly build up in the backs of shops, such as the packaging of the goods that arrive from wholesalers. Thus cardboard and plastic wraps constitute app. one third of all the rubbish in an average mall (app. 100 tonnes per year) – and they are segregated because there is business to be done in doing so. “We pay shopping centres for cardboard and plastic wraps because they generate so much of such material that it is profitable,” says Paweł Herman. “This constitutes the revenue that lowers the cost of collecting the waste from the mall by more or less one third and tenants benefit from that,” says Dariusz Pieślak, the director of operations of Mayland Real Estate, which manages properties with a leasable area of nearly 300,000 sqm. However, other types of rubbish pose a problem as this does not get segregated and the average shopping centre generates app. 200 tonnes of it. This waste is mostly deposited in bins in the corridors of the malls and in the car parks, as well as in the toilets and food courts. The problem that facility managers face here is that shoppers are not inclined towards sorting their rubbish. A dustbin designated for plastic will inevitably fill up with hamburger leftovers and chewing gum. “The waste that is to be recycled cannot be dirtied in any way,” according to the hotline of the Municipal Cleaning Company. As a result, despite having put a segregation system in place, the rubbish from the corridors is not suitable for recycling. At the end of the day, the cleaning service packs everything into one sack and passes it on as unsegregated waste. Facility managers need to face the problem of whether to establish special facilities to deal with the segregation of waste inside the centres. They usually claim that this not profitable, though.
One of the pioneering systems in Poland was introduced two years ago to the Bemowo shopping mall in Warsaw by Stena Recycling and DTZ (the facility manager at the time). Dustbins were placed in the corridors and the food court, which made it possible to divide up the rubbish. To solve the problem of the lack of segregation by the customers of the centre, the cleaning service took on additional sorting duties to sort the rubbish before it was thrown into the container. “In this way the recycling of waste from the centre exceeded 50 pct,” says Barbara Berta, a senior technical manager of property management at DTZ. In spite of this it was only a qualified success. “The main problem involves the spoiling of the waste. The rubbish is wet and oily – so it needs to undergo further processing or it will be passed on to the municipal landfill site. Because customers are not diligent in terms of segregation, avoiding such dirt is impossible. So as long as Poles’ attitudes stay the same, waste segregation in malls will still be faced with the same problem,” admits Paweł Herman. Can this system operate effectively in general? Yes, it can, which can be seen in Sweden, where waste segregation in shopping centres works well. Customers separate the rubbish very precisely, due to which there is virtually no need for any additional sorting and the waste is successfully recycled. “Time and education is needed for us to achieve similar results,” explains Paweł Herman.

The end of the era of the customer?
In mid-2012, based on what is known as waste contracts, Warsaw city council passed a resolution on the collection of rubbish that also applies to uninhabited properties. This means that administrative districts will now also collect municipal waste from office buildings and shopping centres. In this way the resolution took away some of the responsibilities of the managers, because from then onwards it has no longer been the facility manager or the administrators who choose the waste disposal companies based on tenders or negotiations, but the local authorities who set up a monopoly provider for the given area under its own guidelines. In this way facility managers have lost control over many of the terms of their contracts with waste collection firms, including what day and what time the dustcart comes or whether the company’s staff will go down to the car park to collect the bins from the underground level. They can no longer threaten to terminate the contract if a decent level of service is not provided. Managers and building owners have furthermore been obliged to segregate the waste into glass and mixed recyclable waste as well as non-recyclable waste. You could say that everything, including the price of the service, has changed for the worse. “Before the resolution came into force, we paid PLN 27 for the collection of a 1,100 litre container of non-segregated waste, PLN 22 for a container of segregated waste and PLN 17 for paper. The fees in Warsaw today amount to: PLN 45 for a segregated container and PLN 63 for a non-segregated one,” laments Magdalena Oksańska of Knight Frank. The managers of shopping centres have similar complaints. “In Gdynia and Słupsk, where the local districts have not passed the resolution on waste collection from uninhabited properties, we have been operating according to the old rules. However, in shopping centres in Dąbrowa Górnicza and Opole, the fees for the collection of municipal waste have increased by app. 40 pct compared to the previous net price as a result of the changes introduced by the local council. Prior to this we had contracts signed on the basis of tenders we organised and it was much more beneficial for us,” says the representative of Mayland. In addition, the fee is in the form of a duty rather than a charge for the service, so now VAT cannot be deducted. “I do not expect the local authorities to issue me with a certificate to confirm that its company collects my rubbish and segregates it into, for instance, five streams; and yet such a certificate is necessary for the renewal of the international ecological certificates, which takes place every year,” says Magdalena Oksańska. But there are facility managers who have been able to extricate themselves from this difficult situation by exploiting the imprecision of the regulations. A lot of rubbish does not need to be qualified as municipal waste, meaning that it is not covered by the resolution. “If a company states that waste other than municipal is generated in the course of its operations, it does not have to supply it to the municipality unless it is something both the company and the city or town want. Facility managers are supposed to render to the authorities all the municipal waste generated as a result of their operations, whereas everything that is not municipal waste does not come under the purview of the city or town authorities and should not be pledged. Managers can themselves arrange for such waste to be collected, which should of course take place in accordance with all the other regulations,” reveals Marek Goleń of the department of economics and local government finance at the Warsaw School of Economics. However, it turns out that what is or is not municipal waste is a matter of opinion. Someone looks at sandwich leftovers and sees municipal waste while others see ‘a product unsuitable for human consumption’, which is a different kind of refuse. “For an amount of waste to be qualified as other than municipal, all you often need is basic legal knowledge of waste coding,” explains Marek Goleń. Due to this, many managers of commercial facilities declare to the local authorities that their buildings generate next to nothing in terms of municipal waste and so only include minimal amounts of such rubbish in their declarations. The rest can be handed over much more easily and cheaply to companies chosen by them, while giving the monopoly chosen by the administrative district a wide berth. However, many are afraid that the authorities might be tempted to interpret the regulations more literally and actually start collecting all of the waste accumulated in commercial buildings, including valuable recyclable materials. “It is certain that if the authorities decided to collect all the rubbish generated by such buildings, including recyclable materials, it would signify the end of the era of the customer. It would be equivalent to putting an end to competition on the waste collection market by handing it over to a monopoly in each locality, resulting in an increase in fees and a considerable deterioration in the quality of the services rendered,” concluded one of the managers. For the moment, however, managers are keeping their fingers crossed for the regulations to keep on being applied in the same way.

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