It is important for your business’ operations to have the right size and type of indoor and outdoor equipment for collecting and transporting waste materials. The correct equipment can increase the efficiency of your waste diversion program, ensure worker safety, and reduce contamination. Some of this equipment is provided by your hauler, and some may need to be procured by your facility. This webpage provides an overview of collection equipment typically provided by haulers, and equipment for collecting and moving material within your facility.  The optimal equipment for your facility will vary based on the business type, waste stream, space limitations, and other factors.

Containers Serviced by Your Hauler

Your hauler often provides collection containers such as frontload dumpsters, wheeled carts, and roll off containers for your waste diversion programs. These containers are primarily used outdoors as the final collection or service point. Different types of equipment are recommended based on the material collected, tonnage generated, and your hauler’s service capabilities. If you are purchasing additional containers that are not provided by your hauler but will be serviced by them, ensure that they are compatible with your hauler’s equipment. To prevent contamination, ask your hauler about using different colored lids to distinguish which materials are accepted in the dumpster or to provide sticker or other signage to clearly label material streams accepted in each container.  


Flat top and slanted top frontload dumpsters

Your hauler may provide frontload and/or rearload dumpsters, depending on the service offerings available in your area. Trucks that service these dumpsters will collect and combine similar materials from multiple locations.

Dumpsters are often used by small- and medium-sized businesses such as restaurants, apartment complexes, and retail operations. They are typically stored outside in a parking lot or fenced-in corral. The most common sizes of dumpsters are: 2-yard, 4-yard, 6-yard, 8-yard, and 10-yard, but your hauler may have other options available. Smaller 2-yard dumpsters may be placed on wheels so that they can be stored inside or in a separate location outside, then wheeled to the pickup location. Frontload dumpsters, which are more common, are also available in ‘dock style’ so that material can be loaded into the back of the dumpster by a person standing on a loading dock. Frontload compactors, which compact material into a frontload container, can be used in areas where space is limited and to help reduce truck traffic. Apartment buildings with chute systems commonly empty material into frontload compactors, which are serviced by frontload trucks.

Frontload compactor

Depending on your hauler’s service offerings, dumpsters can be used to collect trash, recycling, and sometimes food waste. Some haulers do not recommend collecting food scraps or other wet, heavy materials in 10-yard or other large containers due to worker safety concerns and weight limits on the hydraulic forks used to empty the contents of the containers into the trucks. Dumpsters that contain soupy, wet loads may have leakage issues, especially if the dumpsters are rotted out at the bottom.

Dumpsters can have flat or slanted tops with lids and sometimes sliding side doors, depending on the container size. Cardboard-only dumpsters may benefit from slotted openings to encourage flattened material and discourage contamination. These openings may also be locked to prevent illegal dumping. For ground-level dumpsters, slanted tops make it easier for tenants or custodial staff to load material. Your hauler may have additional options to keep out wildlife, such as animal-proof containers with lockable metal lids.


Various sizes of wheeled carts

Wheeled carts—sometimes referred to as rear load or side load carts—are two-wheeled containers that are often used for residential collection programs and small businesses such as coffee shops, small-scale eateries, offices, retail locations, and multi-tenant commercial buildings where tenants each have their own carts. Wheeled carts are most commonly available in 32-gallon, 65-gallon, and 96-gallon sizes, and are suitable for facilities that would like the flexibility of relocating the collection container.

Carts can be used for trash, recycling, and food waste programs, but are not recommended to collect cardboard only, as the shape of the container is not suitable for flattened cardboard. Wheeled carts are usually provided by your hauler, but you may also purchase additional carts directly from a supplier to use indoors for collection of different material streams. If you are looking to consolidate cart loads into an outdoor dumpster, note that four 96-gallon carts are approximately the same volume as one 2-yard dumpster. Carts can be consolidated into dumpsters manually or using hydraulic cart tippers.

Hydraulic cart tipper

Carts are often lined with plastic bags to collect material, and they can be easily cleaned because of their size and portability. Note that if you use plastic bags to collect and transport recycling, you must empty the bag and reuse it or discard it as trash. RecyclingWorks developed an informative graphic about emptying recyclables out of plastic bags for businesses to use as a sign or training tool. If you collect food scraps or other materials for composting, check with your hauler and end site to confirm whether they accept compostable bags. If not, food waste must be emptied out of the bag, which should be placed in the trash container.

Compactors and Open Top Containers

Businesses that generate large volumes of trash and recycling typically utilize compactors and open top containers, which are classified as roll-off services. Waste haulers pick up and transport these containers directly to an end site, such as a commercial compost site, recycling facility, or construction handling facility. Trucks providing roll-off services for these containers require a lot of space. Haulers may supply compactor equipment or open top containers, or your business can purchase them outright.

Open top container

Open top containers are commonly used to collect bulky trash or recycling, and are often used during construction projects to collect materials such as metal, asphalt, brick, and concrete. They come in various sizes, including 10-yard, 15-yard, 20-yard, 30-yard, and 40-yard. Be sure to closely monitor and secure your open top containers, as they may attract illegal dumping of materials.

Compactors are effective for collecting both wet and dry waste. They push material from the hopper (where waste is loaded) to the receiver box (where waste is stored). Hydraulic cart tippers can be added to most compactors to help empty the contents of carts into the hopper. Compactors can connect to a building through a chute and enclosure room, providing security and protection from outside elements. Most compactors require three-phase electrical power. If compactors are not serviced on a set schedule, they should be monitored by a pressure gauge and emptied when the pressure reaches a certain level; ask your hauler what the gauge pressure should be when you call to request a pick-up. Emptying on call can be a premium service, but each haul is maximized because the container is full. If you have a set collection schedule, work with your hauler to ensure that schedule and container size fit your facility’s needs. There are different types of compactors used for specific types of wastes:

Self-contained compactor
  • Self-contained compactors are used to collect wet materials, such as trash or food waste, and are commonly found at large supermarkets, hospitals, and apartment complexes. They are often modified to fit a business’ specific needs. When serviced, the receiver box and power unit are removed from the site, emptied, and returned within the same haul. Note that this means there will be a period of time where you cannot use the compactor.
  • Breakaway compactors are used for dry waste like cardboard and other recyclables. Large-scale retailers, manufacturers, and other industrial facilities may utilize these compactors. When the roll-off truck arrives to service the compactor, the receiver box is swapped out or emptied and returned.
  • Dual-stream waste compactors have two compartments so that trash and recycling or food waste can be collected separately in the same unit. They are often used in areas where space allows for only one compactor but the business generates large amounts of two different waste streams. The compartments lock so that material is easily emptied at different processing facilities.

Equipment for Internal Collection and Transportation

In addition to equipment serviced by haulers, businesses and institutions often utilize additional containers for the collection, transportation, and consolidation of materials within their organizations. Typically, the business is responsible for purchasing these containers. See the Single Stream Recycling page for best practices to reduce contamination in recycling streams, such as pairing bins, using color-coded liners, and clear signage.

Centralized waste stations with restrictive openings

Offices, institutions, and other public areas can utilize plastic desk-side bins or centralized waste stations in common areas to collect recycling, food scraps, and trash generated from staff and guests. Cleaning staff will usually consolidate these streams on a cleaning cart and transfer the material to the appropriate dumpster. Bins can be adapted to have restricted openings that encourage proper separation of materials.

Barrels, buckets, and carts are often used in commercial kitchens and dish rooms to collect trash, recycling, and food waste. Food scraps can be collected in dishwasher safe table top containers or pails at each prep station. Smaller containers can be emptied into open barrels or carts stored outside for pickup, or consolidated directly into the designated dumpster or compactor. These containers are also easily cleaned for reuse. View RecyclingWorks’ Source Separation Guidance for additional best practices for collecting food scraps.

Manufacturing, industrial, and other large commercial facilities often have the following types of equipment to collect and transport waste:

  • Gaylord boxes are tall, pallet-sized boxes typically made out of cardboard. Facilities can purchase new gaylords or repurpose those received from incoming shipments. Gaylords are best used to collect dry materials for recycling, such as cardboard and film plastics. These boxes can be loaded directly onto a trailer using a pallet jack or fork truck. Cardboard gaylords should be reused or recycled after the contents are emptied, as cardboard is a waste ban item.
  • Hampers are fabric or plastic four-wheeled containers that come in various sizes and colors, and are often used to collect dry materials. They can be used as storage containers to collect and transport waste generated throughout the facility. Staff may find that it is easier to collect multiple materials in the same hamper in clear bags, and then empty the contents into the appropriate dumpster or compactor
  • Tilt trucks, also referred to as ‘tip carts’, are heavy-duty wheeled carts that come in half yard, 1-yard, and 2-yard sizes. The angled container makes it easier to empty material into a dumpster.
    Tilt truck

Facilities can purchase dual-stream hampers or tilt trucks to collect separate waste streams, or adapt standard equipment using a DIY solution such as a cardboard separator.

Businesses that generate large quantities of materials, such as cardboard or plastic film, and have the necessary storage space, may benefit financially by baling material on-site. Vertical balers come in a variety of sizes; the material is loaded into a chamber until it is full, then compacted and tied with wire or plastic strapping. The bales can then be stored on pallets and transported to a recycling facility.

Additional Resources