While some vacuum parts may be made of recycled materials, vacuum bags and filters typically are not considered sustainable. However, a few bag manufacturers do make green lines that are more biodegradable in landfills, Cadell says. It could also be considered more sustainable to purchase bagless vacuum cleaners with adequate HEPA filtration, he adds.

Some add-ons available on all or most vacuums can save BSCs a lot of maintenance headaches (and replacement parts).

“I would recommend that every single vacuum a contractor buys has a magnet bar on it, to pick up the paper clips and staples that can do a lot of damage,” Cadell says. “That is one way to help extend the life of beater bars and belts, and even increase the life of their bags.”

When it comes to belts, wands, tools, switches and other parts, it’s likely that at some point one or more of them will break or wear down and need replacement. The availability of vacuum replacement parts should also be considered before buying a vacuum, Ashkin says.

“The reality is, for contractors, they are out there cleaning every single day so a piece of equipment really can’t be down for very long,” he says.
Lastly, it’s important for BSCs to educate and train their employees about the importance of proper use and maintenance of equipment, Farmer says.

“If sustainability is a goal, equipment maintenance and proper training should be a top priority in the cleaning program,” she says. “Equipment that is used correctly and properly maintained by the custodial staff will last longer and not only meet the goals of a green cleaning program but save money.”

With the number of LEED-certified facilities growing, and an increasing number of customers seeking CIMS-certified BSCs, knowing what makes equipment sustainable is more important than ever. BSCs have the power to drive demand for recycled materials, Hesselink says.

“If we create demand for recycled materials — plastics for example — we create a demand for more recycled plastic that gets the attention of the waste providers and haulers. They then seek out more sources and encourage recycling with their customers,” she says.

The recent collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh was a tragic reminder that manufacturing takes place in a global marketplace, and that purchasers may not always be aware of where their products are coming from and who is making them, Ashkin says. Just asking distributors and manufacturers certain questions — how they substantiate their claims, what their end-of-life program is, where their equipment is made, who makes their equipment and the parts used, and whether they have a sustainability report — can put those issues on the radar if they’re not already there.

“What is important is that we have to ask. If the customer doesn’t ask, the message to the manufacturer is that the customer doesn’t care,” Ashkin says. “Questions like that can drive the transformation of the entire sector.”
Lisa Ridgely is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. She is the former Deputy Editor of Contracting Profits.

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A Durable Vacuum Is A Sustainable One