How to Choose the Right Waste Container for Your Business

How to Choose the Right Waste Container for Your Business

Choosing the correct container to properly store waste is important for both your business and the environment.

Choosing the right container for the type of waste you handle is crucial. Improper selection or inappropriate use of the container can drastically shorten its life. It can also be a potential hazard for humans and the environment. For example, hauling dense and acidic waste in a light and an unlined container can cause permanent structural damage. Be it industrial activity, disaster clean-ups, building projects or demolition jobs, the waste produced needs the appropriate containers. Business also need to have waste reduction strategies in place.

Types of Waste Containers

Heavy industries such as construction and oil and gas produce large amounts of solid, liquid and gaseous waste, which could be hazardous. Demolition jobs and agricultural activities on the other hand produce non-hazardous waste. Choose the containers from the list below based on the application.

Roll-off containers/boxes. They are generally used to haul hazardous and non-hazardous liquids or dry and solid waste. The roll-off containers come with a canvas tarp, poly top or steel hardtop. They can be easily rolled-off on-site by the truck. Once the box is filled up, the truck can pick up and carry it back to the waste processing or disposal site, landfill or recycling unit. These boxes are easy to roll on and off the truck using a hydraulic arm and hook lift mechanism.

Tub style containers. These containers have distinct tapered sidewalls for easy dumping of waste. They are usually used to haul heavy-duty scrap produced by the construction and demolition industry, such as concrete blocks.

Sealed and sludge style containers. A standard sealed container is similar to the roll-off box, whereas the sludge style is suited for heavy-duty and dense applications. The sealed tailgate with slider hinges ensures all material stays in the container for secure hauling. Since they ensure zero leakage, they are also ideal for hauling toxic or hazardous waste.

Dewatering boxes. This container is ideal for situations where you need to separate solid waste from liquids like sludge and slurry. Dewatering boxes can drain the liquid from the container using a geo-textile and synthetic filter liner. The filter liner usually comes in 100, 250 and 400-micron configurations. Dewatering significantly reduces the weight of the sludge and makes it easy to transport.

Recycler containers. They are used to haul materials such as plastics, clothing and batteries and come with peak, hip/gambrel or flat roof, hinged or sliding lids and interior dividers.

Vacuum boxes. They are ideal for use with vacuum trucks, which help segregate solid waste from sludge. They are completely sealed and enclosed containers that store or carry materials that can be harmful if left exposed. They are most commonly found in the oil and gas industry and environmental services.

Poly box and Poly tanks. They are used with a special corrosion-resistant plastic polymer that is ideal for transporting materials that are too acidic for steel containers. The sealed tailgate ensures that there is no spill during transportation, and rounded-corners help in easy cleaning.

Frac tanks. As the name suggests, they are extensively used in the fracking industry for storing and transporting chemicals, oil and gas and water. They can also be used for liquid and solid waste containment.

How to Choose the Right Size Waste Container

Choosing the right size container to manage your waste is a good financial decision. Transporting 15 yards of waste in a 10-yard container can be expensive because the truck will need to make two rounds. Roll-off boxes typically come in 10, 20, 30 and 40-yard capacities. A 10-yard container typically holds 10 cubic yards of waste.

The container's length, width and height are measured from the outside, giving a slightly higher than actual cubic yard capacity. Therefore, it is advisable to reduce 6 to 8 inches from the actual dimensions to ascertain the exact carrying capacity of the container.

It is easy to assess the total volume of the waste in situations where the size of pieces is uniform. But it is difficult to estimate the volume of random junk such as that produced in construction and demolition. This guideline will help you get a fair idea of choosing the container size.

• 10-yard container: It is ideal for small-scale waste generation, such as hazardous chemicals produced by small industries.

• 20-yard container: It can hold up to 10 pickup truck loads of waste and debris. The 20-yard container is ideal for mid-size new construction and remodelling jobs. They can also be used for carrying waste generated by smaller industrial activities.

• 30-yard container: This is ideal for bigger projects, such as waste produced after a natural disaster or large infrastructure projects.

• 40-yard container: This is ideal for large industrial waste, water and fire remediation projects, large home construction, demolition and landscaping and excavation projects. They can also be used for hauling hazardous waste produced from industrial activity and waste produced after natural disasters like floods and hurricanes.

Overfilling the container beyond the rim is not recommended because it will be hazardous for other people on the road and attract authorities' penalties. The truck company may also refuse to haul the container due to legal constraints.

EPA Waste Management Tips

No single waste management strategy is suitable for all types of waste streams and circumstances. Keeping this in mind, the EPA has defined a waste management hierarchy for reducing, reusing and recycling as key to the sustainable management of waste. Some of the guidelines from the manual on container management by the EPA are:

• Hazardous waste must be stored and transported in appropriate containers with leak-proof liners to protect the environment and workers.

• It is essential to distinguish and demarcate hazardous and non-hazardous waste. The waste needs to be segregated based on its toxicity, and compatibility with other materials.

• Hazardous waste would normally require an RCRA permit for storage and disposal. Non-hazardous waste that can be recycled does not require such a permit.

• Determine the size of the waste container based on the quantity and content of the waste. Ideally, the size of the container should only be slightly bigger than the quantity of waste.

• It is not advisable to place incompatible waste in a single container and a supervisor must first approve the mixing of any materials. The type of waste must be compatible with the container's material itself to prevent corrosion and leakage.

• A container holding hazardous waste must be marked with the words ‘Hazardous Waste’.


If not handled as per the environmental and human safety standards, industrial and construction waste can not only cause accidents but also attract financial penalties. Industries that deal with such waste are legally obligated to store the waste in containers before transporting it to the waste disposal site or a recycling facility.

When selecting the right container, the key points to remember are the size, material and design that suits the waste produced by your project. This will help you stay within legal compliance, as well as keep the expenses within budget.

About the Author

Amanda Wilson is an established freelance writer who has built her career focusing on the energy sector along with the oil and gas industries.