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Waste: The Final Frontier in GRESB Reporting

GRESB requests three fundamental types of data in its Performance Indicators aspect: energy (electric, fuel, district), water and waste. The fourth type, carbon, is simply an imputed value of energy usage. Of these three, waste is rarely reported to GRESB owing to the fact that it’s by far the most difficult to collect. It is no coincidence, then, that those who report waste data also tend to outperform peers on GRESB’s annual benchmark.

In an increasingly competitive reporting landscape where Green Stars and Sector Leaders are being minted on the margins, waste data represents one of the few remaining ways to get ahead of your competition.

One of the reasons waste data remains so difficult to collect is that service providers are incredibly fragmented. Of the two dominant providers – Waste Management and Republic – neither cover all major metropolitan markets in the US or Canada, let alone smaller secondary markets. As a result, owners of even modestly sized real estate portfolios tend to use multiple service providers. So even if data was readily accessible across all vendors (more on that later), uniform coverage across a portfolio is still difficult to come by.

Aside from vendor market coverage, the other reason waste data is difficult to come by is the way it’s collected and sorted. Waste separation begins inside a building where it’s produced – glass from plastics, hazardous from non-hazardous materials… Waste haulers have little or no control over this “in-building” waste allocation. Instead, they only intersect the waste stream once it’s in the dumpster behind your building, at which point it’s difficult to know the exact proportions of waste beyond the level of “recyclables” versus “hazardous”. Fortunately, this level of granularity is sufficient for GRESB because it only wants to know two basic things about your waste:

  1. How much waste by volume did you produce?
  2. What disposal route(s) were utilized to move your waste to its final resting place?

Since both weight and disposal route are under the control of your waste hauler, you’d think it’s safe to assume they would track this information for each building served. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Waste is an ancient business. Correspondingly, the IT systems run by most providers are not sophisticated enough to send building owners the amount of waste or disposal routes for a given building on a timely basis, let alone a whole portfolio. But that’s changing…

One example is the partnership formed between Measurabl and Waste Management early in 2015 – giving rise to the first truly automated approach to answering GRESB’s waste requirements. The proprietary feature allows shared customers of Waste Management and Measurabl to fetch their data and report it to GRESB automatically by entering the Waste Management account number into Measurabl. The process works by correlating accounts with buildings, and by factoring data from Waste Management into GRESB’s arcane format for Performance Indicators. To date, hundreds of buildings around the US have subscribed to the service, and their owners have outperformed on GRESB.

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