Keeping the trash chutes and collection rooms of multifamily buildings clean, sanitary and stench-free is a big job, and an important one. Poorly-maintained chutes are not just gross—they're breeding grounds for pests, bacteria, and other harmful contaminants you really don't want in your building. That's why it's critical that your building staff and maintenance professionals stay on top of keeping your chutes in good order.
Into the Hopper
Trash chutes—also called hoppers—were originally used to drop rubbish down to a basement incinerator, where it would be burned. While burning garbage is a pretty good way to get rid of tons of bulky, smelly trash, it's terrible for the environment. For that reason, incinerators were banned in most New York City residential buildings in the 1980s. Today, building refuse is routed to trash compactors where it's squashed into manageable parcels, which are in turn picked up by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) or a private carting company.
Compactors are certainly an improvement over incinerators, but bags of trash still have to get down to a building's basement via a trash chute—and unfortunately, they don't always make it down there in one piece. Bags break, even in the compactor, and some residents will also stuff items in the chute that are clearly too large to fit (pizza boxes are a prime offender), causing backups. Careless residents will even throw dirty diapers and cat litter directly into the chute, sans bag. Just imagine being the next person to open the trash chute door after such shenanigans and getting a face full of bacteria-laden air.
Beware the Air in There
Waste material, debris, and allergens can build up in a building’s airways and passages, turning the duct system into a perfect environment for the proliferation of mold, bacteria, and other harmful organisms. Some studies have even shown bacterial growth, including salmonella and e.coli, on the inner surfaces of garbage chutes and near the trash rooms. And the problem doesn't stop at the chute—garbage chutes are equipped with vents, and the air inside can circulate into the hallways and even into individual apartments, exposing everyone in the building to airborne bacteria.
When chutes are not cleaned and maintained properly, grease, grime, and bits of debris can also pose an increased risk of fire. And let’s not forget the wildlife that can move in and turn a dirty trash chute into a five-star hotel; primarily roaches, rats, and mice. Vermin can be a year-round issue, but in the colder months when buildings are shut tight and food sources are scarce, the problems can multiply with alarming speed.