"
Servitas Development Manager Morgan Thomas shares his advice on how developers can choose a trash removal plan for their properties.

How to Choose a Trash Removal Plan
Creating the right trash removal plan isn’t easy considering the average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste per year. Compounded by the ever-growing sizes of student housing projects today, along with property staff, vending, and sometimes retail, the amount of waste produced adds up quickly. Therefore, knowing how much you will have and how to dispose of it is essential for a successfully operating building. This often-overlooked condition has the potential to be a costly oversight, so operators should prioritize choosing and planning the right system early.

Several factors ultimately weigh into accurately projecting waste production. Below I describe four that I focus on when determining the appropriate final solution. I used these steps to very accurately project the waste removal program at Bayview in Miami, and will continue to use these same steps on our future projects at Blinn College.

  1. Design: A good starting point for trash removal planning is the design of the building.While reviewing the building plans ask yourself questions such as: What was designed for the building and what does the building allow? How will the waste removal work? Does the building have a dining facility or units with full kitchens? Does the campus offer a meal plan? Are restaurants or grocery stores nearby? Did the architect design the building to have large compactors somewhere on the site, mini compactors in the trash rooms or carts to haul the trash to a satellite location? Each of these factors has an impact on how much, or little, trash residents produce.Answering questions such as these will provide a clear understanding of the building and area in general – one of the early steps in devising your trash removal plan.
  2. Recommendations from the experts: Waste removal companies have proprietary formulas they use to forecast the amounts of trash they expect a project will generate. Factors such as project type (apartment, mid-rise, high-rise), size (number of units/beds), geographic area, and comparable projects help these experts arrive at an estimate. Frequent conversations with the waste removal company representative, to let them know as much about the building as possible, helps experts determine what your property can expect.
  3. Comparable projects: I am fortunate to work at a company that develops and manages student housing projects. So, before choosing a trash removal plan, I looked into the Servitas portfolio. For one such search, I spoke to the onsite property management team at The Stack in College Station to understand how their program works. They told me what kind of equipment they have, their rate of accumulation, and their frequency of pick-ups. With this information, I came up with my own formula to average the waste per unit and bed by weight and volume.
  4. Online research: I also looked quite a bit online to see if there was a preexisting formula or “Rule of Thumb” I could reference to create my own educated estimates. Although I did not find what specifically looked for, I found conversion formulas from the EPA and a 2015 multi-state study by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on waste reduction programs on college campuses that provided bits and pieces of information I was able to use.

Now, I don’t claim that this is a fail-safe method to knowing exactly how much waste a given student housing facility will produce, but you can narrow the estimated range by taking these steps into account.


Morgan has 14 years in the real estate world. Beginning in sales, his experience has grown to include property management, leasing, construction oversight, property inspection, plan and contract review, and land development. Morgan’s role at Servitas is centered around preconstruction, development, and timely delivery of projects.