08 September 2022
Reading time: 7 minutes
Insufficient commercial waste bin capacity can lead to overflowing bins that ruin the aesthetics of a beautifully designed washroom. It can also result in changing the washroom design to accommodate the correct size if not thought out carefully. To avoid this potential problem, we often raise this with our clients particularly when they specify paper towel dispensers for their washroom.
We have seen numerous project designs where the most intricate details are not considered before choosing the correct bin capacity. As commercial washroom specialists, we can guide you in determining what bin capacity you need and how many bins you should include in your design.
This article focuses on helping you understand how to choose the correct commercial waste bin capacity and explains the details to consider before choosing your waste bin.
1. Paper towels and/or automatic hand dryers
If a design only includes automatic hand dryers, then the bin capacity would be much less than if there were only paper towel dispensers. We base this on predictions of how much waste is discarded in a day.
Automatic hand dryers do not require bins at all, but waste bins are still necessary for other items a user may want to throw away. The commercial waste bin capacity could be much less than half the requirement needed compared to having paper towel dispensers.
Paper towels are single-use consumables that will require a greater commercial waste bin capacity. But how do you determine the exact waste bin dimensions you need and how many paper towels can fit into a bin before you have to empty it?
To help our clients figure this out, we experimented to assess how many used paper towels could be thrown into a waste bin before the bin reached maximum capacity. The results came in: 100 used paper towels filled a 10-litre bin leading to the discovery that this is a reasonable estimation to work with when calculating bin capacity. This experiment was a rough guideline to work with, and you must consider other factors that affect calculating bin capacity, for example, the size, type, and thickness of paper towels.
2. Building type and foot traffic
Looking at the potential foot traffic in a building also plays a role in determining the bin capacity for a washroom. Public places such as airports, shopping centres, and train stations that operate extended hours compared to office hours in commercial buildings, will inevitably have more users consistently in and out of the washroom.
It brings us to the next question – how many people do you expect to use the washroom? Let’s look at an example of 250 people on one floor in an office building with only paper towel dispensers in the washroom. On average, each person realistically uses the washroom three times a day and utilises (on average) 2,6 paper towels per visit to dry their hands after washing them.
250 people multiplied by the average of three visits equals 750 visits to the washroom and equates to 1950 paper towels used per day. Assuming the washroom undergoes servicing once a day and based on the estimation above, you may need 195 litres of bin capacity as an approximate figure.
Let’s say the washrooms on this office floor include ten commercial waste bins allocated in the design. Remember 1950 paper towels = 195 litres bin capacity (recommended minimum requirement.)
195 litres bin capacity ÷ 10 waste bins = 19.5 litres per waste bin (recommended minimum requirement.)
3. Type of washroom – Traditional or Superloo
What type of washroom have you designed? Traditional separate sex washrooms or superloos?
Based on the figures above, if you have a traditional separate sex washroom with a split male to female ratio of 50/50 – take that 195 litre bin capacity, and divide it by four waste bins (dividing it by 4 gives you two bins per washroom).
This equates to 2 x 50 litre bins in the ladies and 2 x 50 litre bins in the men’s washroom.
This figure gives you a good idea of how many waste bins and the bin capacity you may need. With two waste bins allocated per washroom, a great design idea is to have one placed on either side of the vanity.
But what if your design includes superloos? As you may know, superloos are all-in-one inclusive washroom cubicles that have all the washroom necessities in one private space.
Some designers may exclude bins from each superloo because they have only included automatic hand dryers – not paper towel dispensers. It leads them to believe there is no need for a waste bin in their design, plus they may think they are saving space in the superloo cubicle by not including the waste bin.
However, this is not ideal for the user in a situation where they may walk into a superloo with waste to throw away. If there is no waste bin, they may flush foreign objects down the toilet resulting in blockages and jamming up the sewer system.
Commercial bins should not be excluded from superloo designs, and there are many other creative ways to save space in a superloo layout without having to remove a significant fitting.
Let’s look at how to calculate the waste bin size for superloos. For example, if there are 15 superloos in the washroom to cater for 250 people – take the 195 litres bin capacity and divide it by the 15 superloos. This figure gives you 13 litres of bin capacity required per bin per superloo for the 250 users.
195 litres bin capacity ÷ 15 superloos = 13 litres bin capacity per superloo (recommended minimum requirement.)
However, you may find that the bin capacity you need per superloo takes up too much space in the cubicle, but don’t let this deter you. Waste bins can be placed underneath the vanity or concealed within the wall. Merely changing the position and type of waste bin is an instant superloo space saver.
4. Housekeeping schedule
Washrooms lacking continuous housekeeping, combined with inefficient bin capacity, can result in paper towels piling up into a mound that can spill over onto the floor or vanity unit. A beautifully designed washroom has the potential for its aesthetic appeal to be ruined at the sight of an overflowing bin or bin chute.
Perhaps the overflow is not due to housekeeping at all – maybe the bin capacity is just too small for the demand. Regardless of the situation, this does not leave a good impression on users entering the washroom.
Typically in an office environment, the washroom is serviced once a day, which means the bin capacity must hold enough used paper towels for at least one day. Estimating the housekeeping schedule to once a day will also help determine the bin capacity.
5. Washroom design
Wash troughs and bin chutes
Wash troughs with moulded bin chutes are often specified for a minimalistic washroom layout to maximise floor space and keep the waste bins concealed underneath the vanity top or within the vanity cabinetry. The compact design also creates the impression of a spacious and clutter-free washstation with all the handwashing essentials kept in one accessible place above the vanity.
Waste bins underneath a vanity are away from sight, and because they are hidden, provision can be made for a larger bin capacity to hold more waste. There is no need to spend extra money on a wall-mounted stainless steel commercial bin. Dolphin’s ALAVO vanity system is a prime example of bin chutes built into the vanity for larger waste bins with greater bin capacity placed beneath it.
However, sometimes designers opt for a bin chute with a bucket that holds a small bin capacity, for example, 5 litres (equates to 50 used paper towels), which is not ideal and is not recommended, particularly for washrooms with high foot traffic. These small bins fill up quickly, and considering we have already established that one person may use two paper towels to dry their hands, the waste bin will be at maximum capacity by the 25th visit.
As a result, the bin capacity has proven to be too small and will need emptying throughout the day, especially in a commercial building with 250 people on a floor.
You may have to go back to the drawing board and add more waste bins to suit the building’s capacity.
Recessed waste bins
It may be overwhelming to look at these figures and think that your washroom will have these great big waste bins or smaller bins around the room. Perhaps your design does not include vanity bin chutes in the first place. There is no joy in completely changing your washroom design to meet the bin capacity of potential foot traffic, but if this is the case, you can always consider recessed bins that save space in the layout.
Recessed bins can offer the waste bin capacity to meet the foot traffic requirements whilst saving space and protecting the aesthetic appeal. Its slim and slender design may be perceived as having little bin capacity but lo and behold, the waste bin sizes can hold as much as 15 litres and can be customised to go deeper into the wall cavity. It is a simple solution to reduce the number of small bins decorated around your washroom.
Calculating the right waste bin size
No matter the type of washstation design, there are numerous ways to save space, create a clutter-free washroom, and confront the bin capacity dilemma – it just needs a little creative thinking.
A good start is to consider whether you have included paper towels and/or automatic hand dryers, the building type and foot traffic, the type of washroom (traditional or superloo), the potential housekeeping schedule, and your washroom design.
Basing your calculation on the daily average of used paper towels divided by the number of bins allocated in your design will equal the litres of bin capacity you need.
Your commercial washroom supplier should make you aware of the effects bin capacity will have on your washroom, as the ripple effect of this aspect goes far beyond choosing a waste bin that appeals to you.