Challenges involving the proper removal of bulk junk, nontraditional waste products, and organics continue to mount for commercial real estate operators, particularly those managing apartment buildings and retail space.
Waste removal service reliability and expense are complicating the operations side of this necessary responsibility.
Conscientious property groups with sustainability goals in mind continue to seek reliable and efficient methods for these services to help their landfill diversion goals and maintain acceptable curb appeal.
“Bulk item removal has been really difficult because of the lack of viable donation outlets and reuse consumers,” says Sydney Mainster, vice president of sustainability at The Durst Organization, headquartered in New York City. “It’s a lot of labor to handle, and oftentimes we need it removed quickly, whereas the end user may take weeks or months to identify. Also, we’ve often had to use our own in-house labor, even when donating items like furniture.”
Junk That’s Calm, Cool, Collected
One company that has evolved to meet this need is CheckSammy, a growing national company that provides same-day, on-demand removal services as well as a monthly subscription-based service at a flat rate.
“Junk hauling is the reactive, often problematic, segment of the apartment industry’s waste hauling process,” says Cameron Funk, vendor relations manager at Cass Waste Expense Management in Jacksonville, Fla. Funk manages thousands of residential real estate waste management accounts nationwide.
“A community could have two move-outs on a given Monday and nothing else the rest of the month,” Funk says. “This causes complications for on-site management teams when budgeting costs and scheduling pickups. There’s no normality to it. Depending on the market, you’ll get different haulers at different rates at different times.”
Mainster says that more than anything, it saves on staff labor. “It also minimizes how many times someone has to move an item. If we have to move large items in house, someone from the building has to move a couch, for example, from the apartment to the basement for storage. Then, when it is either discarded or donated, that piece of furniture has to be handled a second time. With this service, it’s both removed from the apartment and from the building site at the same time.”
CheckSammy contracts locally with its staff who are trained on the art of junk collection.
“They make the entire process just a little bit smoother, and that can go a long way economically and logistically,” Funk says.
Property managers say the predictability of its services takes some of the logistical and budgetary stress out of the process. Because the service does not involve franchises, it provides significant cost savings because no marketing charges are passed along to customers, the company says.
Remove That Eyesore
Junk hauling often can become a curb appeal hazard for a community.
“A leasing staff doesn’t want to show an apartment with old mattresses laying outside,” Funk says. “If they are having to wait for a pickup, they might as well have to set up an open-top container, but that’s not ideal, either. In a crowded area, it can come down to a space issue. Now, you know they are going to show up when they say they are. The junk won’t linger.”
Junk removal hurdles are becoming more prevalent during this uptick in apartment home clear-outs, often required for residents who abandon possessions following a move-out or an eviction.
“Being able to resolve and remove junk/bulk in a timely manner while having a simplified pricing structure is essential to client satisfaction,” Funk says.
Satisfying Diversion Data Goals
A company he’s used for about a year, its data collection has also been beneficial, particularly for apartment owners and managers who are tracking diversion percentage, Funk says, as well as those needing to meet the growing number of local areas where metrics are mandated.
“Instead of getting a percentage estimate for diversion rates, you get the exact number,” Funk says. “This is very helpful for apartment firms looking to gain LEED certification or for meeting state or local guidelines.”
The data collection process, which includes photos of the bins for each pickup, are more granular than most, Funk says. “For commercial clients, for example, if they are seeing the same widget showing up in 70% of the pickups, this is a signal to them that maybe they don’t need to be making so many of that widget,” Funk says.
“You can tell that [this new hauler] invested a lot of time and money in data collection for its product. This data can then be fed into our proprietary software as well as the Microsoft Power BI analytics tool. Clients love the visibility and insight that is able to provide.”
Mainster says the data transparency about where these items actually end up once they’re removed through this process is important for integrity and upholding company values.
“We don’t just want it gone and forgotten about—we want to make sure its recycled or ideally reused when it leaves our buildings,” she says.
CheckSammy is being described as one of the next-generation sustainability solution for the waste industry, offering not only bulk junk/sustainability services but key data, by providing verified reporting that allows clients to meet or exceed their owners’ and investors’ sustainability metrics.
It is one of the first companies to provide visibility into their bulk junk spend, volumes, seasonality, and tracking for end of life and sustainability metrics. Its software generates detailed quarterly reporting, showcasing sustainability metrics and spend with captured time-stamped photos.
The provider’s streamlined reporting has eased such data collection efforts for sustainability in areas such as Dallas, Fort Worth, throughout California, and other municipalities around the country.
For Most, This is ‘Serious’
Mainster says Durst “takes diverting recyclable or compostable items from the landfill seriously.”
How seriously? Durst offer organics collection for composting at no charge to all commercial tenants at its office buildings and to all residents at its multifamily buildings.
“We continue to offer organics collection through a private hauler at the apartment properties, even though the New York City Department of Sanitation has halted its citywide organics program,” Mainster says. “We also offer battery recycling, lightbulb recycling, e-waste collection and recycling, and bulk removal options at our commercial properties. At our multifamily buildings, we collect batteries, e-waste, lightbulbs, and textiles for recycling.”
Mainster says her company has struggled with bulk removal at its commercial properties and residential buildings due to timing, lack of adequate storage, labor requirements, and lack of viable outlets for items such as office furniture and sofas.
“A company that provides professional labor for removal, storage, and transparent outlets for bulk items and goods is, in theory, an ideal solution,” she says.