21 Apr 2023

How to remove recycling odours

Remove Recycling Odours

It’s easy to assume that only general waste bins accumulate foul odours, but in actuality, recycling and their respective bins also come with a range of unpleasant smells that can really work up a stink. When it comes to the workplace, recycling odours are likely to occur depending on the process involved, the types of material being recycled, as well as improper handling. All of these factors can affect workplace health and safety, compliance, and the running of your business altogether.

Naturally, no one wants to be around bad smells, so we’re going to cover why recycling odours occur, how to implement odour control systems to remove recycling smells and the benefits of an odour extraction system to keep nasty recycling odours at bay.

Why can recycling cause a smell?

Recycling odours happen due to a variety of reasons that could go amiss if procedures aren’t handled properly. Here are just some of the reasons why recycling can produce foul odours:

1. You work in a recycling facility

Recycling facilities themselves will have an odour.  This is due to each recycling process having its own methods, which may include the use of disinfectant chemicals, or simply producing an odour when decomposing. Recycling odours can also occur simply when they’re being sorted in a factory or warehouse, so it’s important to have the right fume extraction to reduce harsh chemical smells from entering our lungs.

2. There’s residual food waste

If non-recyclable matter (such as waste food) is placed in a recycling bin along with recyclables, they can cause cross-contamination. When matter such as food, paper and cardboard starts to break down, unpleasant smells can be released into the immediate environment.

3. Humidity in the air

Most matter, including some recyclables like cardboard, that’s exposed to humidity and moisture can promote the correct levels of bacteria, mould and mildew to grow. These release gases over time, which is what causes a foul smell in the air.

4. Poor ventilation

Bad ventilation systems mean bad smells can accumulate fast and with pretty high potency, too. It means recycling odours linger around for much longer too, and they’re especially bad if the room they’re placed in is small.

5. Poor recycling training

Similar to our cross-contamination point – if recycling is disposed of incorrectly, then odours are likely to occur. This is another reason why recycling material training is important to maintain hygiene and proper disposal practice in the workplace.

What recycling causes a smell?

Before you can take steps to remove recycling odours, you need to know what causes them in the first place. We covered a few examples above, but it’s worth covering what other recyclables can produce odours. Often, some of these smells can be captured within your home or workplace, but may also travel great distances in the wind. Here is a comprehensive list of recycling that can cause bad odours:

  1. Contaminated recyclables
    1. Food waste (e.g. pizza boxes, milk cartons etc)
    2. Non-recyclable plastics (e.g. cling film)
    3. Chemicals 
  2. Recyclables left in the sun or hot areas
    1. Can produce harmful gasses
  3. Compost
    1. Caused by the decomposition of organic matter
  4. Manure
    1. From gardens and agricultural sites.

Do recycling odours pose a health risk?

The short answer is yes – recycling odours can pose a health risk to those in workplaces where there isn’t a robust odour control system. Besides the general discomfort of recycling odours, they can cause respiratory issues or exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma or allergies.

Some recycling odours occur in the presence of mould or bacterial growth, which is commonly known to be a threat to our health due to the spores they release. In addition to this, contaminated recyclables as a result of harsh chemical usage can cause dizziness, headaches and long-term health problems with persistent exposure. 

In order to minimise health risks, good ventilation in the workplace can significantly reduce the amount of recycling odours in the working environment. But how can workplaces remove recycling odours for the health and safety of employees? Let’s dive into that right now!

How to remove recycling odours

It’s super important for workplaces to implement proper recycling procedures, recycling odour extraction systems and ongoing training for new and existing staff. Let’s look at how to remove recycling odours in the workplace.

1. Implement an odour control system

The right industrial ventilation system can help you maintain health and safety standards in the workplace. This includes systems for odours which occur during the recycling process, as well as fume extraction for recycling processes involving chemicals. 

How does an odour control system work?

There are various methods used to control industrial odour. In short, our odour control systems can remove recycling odours by using a series of elements to extract recycling odours and other types of odours caused by various manufacturing processes. Firstly, we use carbon absorbers. Carbon is used due to its porous structure, making it ideal for odour extraction. Then, regenerative thermal oxidisers (RTOs) burn the odours, which we then couple with a series of biofilters and finished off with either a wet, dry or chemical scrubber. Every odour removal system is bespoke though, meaning the potency, size, and materials are adjusted based on what’s needed.

2. Consult with the Environment Agency handbook

All businesses that can potentially pollute air, water, land, and various other elements, will need a permit from the Environment Agency (EA). According to their H4 Odour Management governmental document, to comply with your permit, you must implement the right measures to minimise odours. By using the appropriate measures, ”residual odour will have to be tolerated by the community”.

If measures aren’t implemented, the EA has the authority to shut down manufacturing units where there’s a lack of odour control systems. Eliminate this problem entirely by getting a bespoke odour extraction system for your worksites. Check if you need an environmental permit on the government’s website.

3. Regularly assess the level of odour pollution

In order to remove recycling odours, the potency of the odours needs to be assessed. Conducting a field inspection and documentation of odours (FIDOR), is a great way to measure recycling odours, as well as other odours that occur from other processes that cause pollution. This can be done by using a Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer, which is typically conducted by trained assessors, to measure recycling odour concentrations in the workplace.

4. Promote proper recycling methods

While this may seem obvious, encouraging employees to sort their recycling properly, such as the correct disposal of food/organic waste, can help them make the correct recycling choices. Clear signage in designated areas and regular reviews can ensure compliance. Be sure to encourage the use of separate bins or composting systems for organic waste to prevent it from contaminating the recycling bin and causing strong odours. To further reinforce this, ensure regular recycling pick-ups are scheduled so that removal of recyclables is frequent, in an effort to prevent the onset of recycling odours. 

Need an extraction system to minimise odour and fumes? Our team at Airmatic is happy to advise on the right solution for you, as well as come up with a bespoke waste and recycling solution for your workplace. Contact Airmatic today to find out more.

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