Ugh…Why Does the Chute Room Smell Disgusting?

There is little worse than leaving for work in the morning, going into the hallway to wait for the elevator and getting hit with the smell of old gross garbage. 

Why do chute rooms and hallways smell of garbage?

Physics principles

This is a common occurrence in many multi-residential buildings due to how air circulates. The phenomenon is called the stack effect and below we will outline how it works.

The stack effect is caused by two laws of physics: The Bernoulli Principle, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. 

The Bernoulli Principle states that a fluid moving faster has less pressure than a similar fluid moving slower. 

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that high pressure and low pressure systems move to balance out.

This movement is called "the stack effect".

The stack effect is this movement of air which passes over the bins collecting odours. It exists because the outside air, considered a fluid in physics, moving over the top of the garbage chute is lower pressure than the air inside the chute. Since air inside the chute moves slower, it has lower pressure. This causes the air inside to move upwards to “balance” the pressure.  Lower air in the chute is pulled up, creating an updraft. The updraft continues when people open a chute room door and this creates a puff of air directed towards a residents’ face.

The stack effect means that the air flowing through the chute has to be pulled from the garbage room and thus smells like garbage. As a door is opened a rush of air flows upwards,  enters the chute rooms and then moves outside the room into hallways making them smell too.

bad smell
the stack effect left untreated
Left untreated the odour wafts in the compactor, up the chutes, into chute rooms and then into hallways

Solution 1: Stop the garbage from smelling

If the garbage has no odour at all, then no odour rises up the chute, into the chute room or down halls

unscented garbage does not cause wafting odours
If the garbage does not smell, there will be no wafting odours

The other method is to use a natural, safe, chemical reaction to eliminate the odours at their source. Since the garbage will not smell in this situation, the air moving up the chute will not smell either.

. You can put your head in the compactor and the organics bins and smell nothing!  Therefore there is nothing to waft upwards and into the faces of residents when they throw out garbage also no smells go down the hallway.

Solution 2: Treat the air

You can add scent to the air to mask bad odours
By adding scent to the air, the updraft still smells, but is quite well mixed with perfumes and less noticeable

To mask the garbage, perfume is pumped over the bins and up the chute. This allows the air to mix with perfume and cover up the smell. Also, scent blocks can be placed in the chute rooms. This is the industry standard approach.

Pro-Active Odor Control