Understanding the different types of waste management scales

Finding the right weighing scale for your waste management needs requires proper due diligence.

The waste and recycling industry is reliant on precise measurement for monitoring volume transported by trucks. Scales and weighing systems are essential for tracking these loads. However, with the number of these systems available, facility operators need to work to find the right scale or weighing system for their particular needs. Having the right equipment for waste management applications will allow professionals to better track collected waste, monitor the inputs and outputs during material recovery, extract energy and dispose of the waste properly.

Understanding different types of waste management scales

Vehicle and axle scales

Vehicle and axle scales are used to monitor the weight of refuse vehicles to ensure they are not overloaded. An overweight vehicle can shorten its life and damage the roads they travel on. These scales provide the axle and gross weight information for all types of waste vehicles, ranging from vans to heavy-duty trucks. The scales are portable, adaptable to any vehicle and have a low cost of installation.

Floor scales and bench scales

Floor scales are used to weigh waste during sorting processes or as it moves in and out of a facility. These scales reduce the possibility of revenue loss that can occur due to incorrect weighing. Floor scales can be placed on top of a level flooring surface or in a pit where the top of the scale is level with the area surrounding it. Waste can then be loaded directly onto the scale to weigh, or operators can drive compacted pallets onto the scales to weigh them.

Bench scales are compact in size and frame and can be used to weigh waste up to 500 pounds. Due to their compact nature, bench scales are convenient to use, as they can be placed easily on a workbench or surface. Bench scales are ideal for placement on shipping and receiving docks to log weights of incoming and outgoing materials.

Truck scales

Truck scales are the most popular and versatile weighing solution used in the waste management and recycling industry. Truck scales help operators ensure their vehicles are filled to the right capacity while preventing unsafe overloading. These scales allow for accurate weighing and, due to the rugged nature of operations, are highly durable to withstand extreme weather and on-road conditions. These scales can be integrated with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to better track and monitor trucks in operation.

There are three main types of truck scales:

  • Onboard truck scales: Onboard truck scales ensure the right waste volume is loaded on the vehicle at all times. This helps reduce accidents and liability exposure while increasing safety. Onboard truck scales are often integrated with GPS mapping and data collection equipment to provide a seamless package of information for fleet management operators. This technology allows waste personnel to keep a check on weights while trucks are out on the road, identify the routes of the overloaded trucks and perform route audits using various software packages.
  • Weighbridges: Weighbridges are similar in many respects to full-length truck scales. The main difference is that weighbridges can be utilized to offer more complex and nuanced measurements. Available in multiple sizes, weighbridges can be customized to suit individual company needs. They are mostly used throughout the waste management industry to assess truck weights or to weigh large volumes of wastes.
  • Portable truck scales: Portable truck scales are able to make on-the-fly measurements and include a built-in weight ticket printer. These scales can be integrated into tracking systems to reflect a truck’s workflow, allowing personnel to stay updated while on-the-go.

Rail scales

Rail scales are used to weigh heavy waste loads on trains and transport vehicles mounted on rails or carts without having to derail them. These scales can be used for both static and in-motion weighing. Often, rail scales are used in the form of modular decks, which are spaced to match the distance between the train’s wheels. Rail scales are often integrated with RFID tags for digital display systems and detailed data collection in order to make weighing, tracking and reading easier and more accurate. These systems provide the total van weight and can be optimized to provide readings for individual wheels and axles.

Different types of rail scales include static rail scales, in-motion rail scales, combined truck and track scales and coil car scales.

Forklift scales

Forklift scales are used to lift and weigh the bundled materials on a forklift truck. Forklift scales allow drivers to transport and weigh goods at the same time. Apart from tracking the weight, these scales can be used to track the storage location and origin of the waste products during transport. They are also compact, which makes them ideal to use in busy waste and recycling environments. Integrating forklift scales with in-cab instruments, such as barcode scanners, allows forklift operators to capture important data and transmit it wirelessly to computer systems for real-time monitoring.

Weighing the variables

With the number of scales available, waste and recycling facility owners should spend time becoming acquainted with the functionality of different pieces of equipment to best suit individual needs. The right kind of weighing scale will be dependent on the type and scope of operation, as well as the processes and materials particular to each facility.

The following are some considerations to account for before investing in weighing scales:


Scales should be conveniently placed based on need and layout of a facility. Before purchasing, operators should think about where a scale will be placed and how it will fit into the company’s operations. It is critical to understand that not every type of scale is right for different companies. For example, while a portable scale might offer the versatility one company needs, a stationary scale might be perfect for a different business with little variation in processes. The configurations of a facility will also play into this decision. For instance, operators should check if there is an outlet or a source of electricity where the scale will be placed prior to purchase. If there isn’t, it is probably better to search for a scale that can operate via a generator or battery.


Different businesses deal with different volumes. Before buying a scale, companies should determine the largest total gross weight that the scale will be required to weigh. Once this is determined, it is important to find a scale capable of exceeding these weight requirements to account for exceptionally large loads and the tare weight that a pallet or container could add.

Type of material

Some scales are better suited than others to handle different types of material. Service requirements and upkeep should be considered prior to purchase to help a facility find a scale that can be easily maintained. For example, an operation that is weighing mainly liquids would require a liquid-resistant scale to account for accidents and spills. Foresight when considering a scale purchase can make adoption and implementation more seamless.


What good is a scale if it isn’t accurate? Scale accuracy can be assured by performing regular calibrations; however, it is also important to make sure to buy a scale that is suited to the environment and setting that it will be used in. Since industrial scales are regularly exposed to different environmental elements, variations in pressure or temperature and potential location changes, they can become less accurate over time. It is also common for scales to lose calibration accuracy with regular use, so it makes sense for operators to think about buying the right scale that can maintain its precision for its intended use.


The readability of a scale determines how many decimal places it has to read. A large capacity industrial scale with a 500-pound capacity might have a readability of 0.1 pounds, which may be less precise than a 50-pound capacity bench scale with a readability of 0.01 pounds. Companies should choose a scale based on both the volume that will be processed and the readability that is needed for its operations.

Use of the scale

As has been outlined, not every scale serves the same purpose or has the same applications or features.

Industrial weighing scales are crucial in the operation of waste and recycling facilities. These instruments offer custom software applications that can be interfaced with the scales themselves to help in streamlining operations and increasing productivity and efficiency. By pairing scales with the right software, operators can enjoy more seamless data processing, faster transactions, reduced errors and higher ROI.

There is no one-size-fits-all scale for waste businesses. However, operators who do their homework prior to adoption can help themselves find a solution that allows them to enjoy more seamless waste processing, greater accuracy, more improved data tracking, reduced workloads and greater efficiency.

Kevin Hill is the digital marketing manager for Byron, California-based Quality Scales Unlimited. He can be reached at kevin@scalesu.com.

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