is redefining the humble dumpster
The word “dumpster” has evolved to mean different
things to different people. For our purposes let us understand
it as a broad, generic term for an ever expanding universe of
large trash receptacles lifted by mechanical means and dumped
into vehicles. The word dumpster originated from the Dempster-Dumpster
system of mechanically loading standard containers onto garbage
trucks. It was patented by Dempster Brothers in 1937.
Today, a dumpster can refer to capacities
of less than a cubic yard up to roll-off containers exceeding
100 cubic yards. They come in shapes and sizes only limited by
the imaginations of their designers.
The more trash generated the more dumpsters
we need and we apparently always need more. In 1960, the per
capita generation of waste was 2.68 pounds per person per day,
but by 2009 it grew to 4.34 pounds per person per day. 2010 per
capita data waste volume has not yet been posted by EPA, but
industry experts believe volume has flattened and somewhat decreased.
Waste Management, Inc. (WM) the largest solid
waste collection company in North America, for example, reported
its 2010 internal revenue growth from volume was negative 2.6
percent, although revenues increased by 6.1 percent.
The lingering recession is partially responsible
for some volume fall off, but much of the reduction is due to
more waste being transformed into useful or money-making commodities.
“What we’ve seen is more of a move towards diversion. The amount
of waste volume currently going to landfill has declined simply
because there is more diversion going on,” said Wes Muir, spokesman
for WM. “Whether or not it’s because of regulations, or because
a company recognizes waste as a resource and wants to divert
the material and cut down on disposal costs, it’s all coming
under the label of eco-efficiency.”
Guy Senkowski, the owner of Poynette Iron
Works in Poynette, Wisconsin, a manufacturer of a wide variety
of dumpsters and related waste containers, and his two brothers
started the business in 1996 in a 2,400 sq. ft. building refurbishing
old dumpsters to extend their useful life. Today, Poynette has
annual sales of $16 million, 70,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing
space on a 13 acre complex, employs 68 and offers a menu of over
40 different product categories with hundreds of individual items.
Poynette has built dumpsters as small as quarter-yard hoppers
to as large as a 107 yard roll-off trailers. The company serves
all types of customers – residential and commercial haulers,
municipalities, specialized industrial applications and small
and large retailers.
“The recession really did not affect us. A
little bit of a slowdown but nothing of concern. We got darn
lucky there. Since 1996 we’ve just seen a ton of growth, about
a million dollars a year,” said Senkowski.
Senkowski attributed their continued growth
through a tough economy to his company’s products and customer
service. But major cultural and environmental developments have
undoubtedly helped. Over the past two decades there has been
a strong national demand for diversified dumpster types for segregating
various recyclables to attain a finer, cleaner granulation at
the collection point.
“Everybody always needs to get rid of garbage,
but there’s more and more recycling going on everyday. People
are always looking for different ways to recycle. That’s where
we come in. If you can scribble it on a napkin, we can build
it,” Senkowski related.
Apparently there has been a lot of creative
scribbling at Poynette. Diversion of waste into marketable commodities
has spurred a whole new generation of dumpsters dedicated to
source sorting with better security.
“A big part of our growth has been in recycling
containers, separating out cardboard, paper, glass, plastics,
metals and organics. It seems like you cannot just take your
garbage and throw it away anymore, everything needs to be separated
nowadays, even behind your local bar,” said Senkowski. “Organic
waste is a big thing for us and we do a lot of organic containers.
They’re not throwing food waste away and landfilling it, but
turning it into energy, feeding livestock or making compost or
mulch. You can make money on garbage by recycling with the right
Poynette has seen a marked increase for dumpsters
in several areas – divided units to accommodate multiple recyclables;
locked containers for cardboard with slots that force the user
to collapse boxes to increase container capacity; dumpsters with
false bottoms containing liquid collection tanks to prevent ground
contamination; more integral units to keep out insects and animals;
and better security to prevent unauthorized dumping, pilfering
and reduce liability for the owner.
Nearly every dumpster Poynette makes these
days has plastic tops that decrease overall weight and reduce
the danger of lids coming down and hurting people. Poynette still
builds a few dumpsters with steel lids for applications such
as containing fires near buildings.
“We are doing more and more tightly sealed
containers that help contain liquids and prevent infestations
of rodents, bees and bears. The scrap industry uses dumpsters
that hold metals for weeks or months at a time and we build containers
that prevent rusty water leaching into the ground water. People
are stealing more scrap metals and other recyclables, so we are
using more locks and sealed lids.”
A design collaboration with a customer led
to Poynette developing a new line of wheeled front and rear load
plastic dumpsters with up to 4 cubic yard capacity. “More people
are bumping containers up and down curbs and want more lightweight
containers. That‘s how we came up with our new, stronger, lighter
weight plastic container line, of which we’ve been selling quite
a few.” Poynette buys tubs from a plastics manufacturer and fabricates
steel frames with casters that hold the tubs. “A crucial element
in the success of our plastic dumpsters was developing a rugged
lid. We worked very closely with the Scott Lemajeur, owner of
Impact Plastics to develop a thick, durable hinge line. Scott
was a great help getting our plastic dumpsters on the street.
Without a great lid you do not have a great box.”
Plastic has further invaded the traditional
world of the steel dumpster with the Bagster bag, the first disposable
dumpster in a bag now being sold all over North America by Waste
Management. Scott Rhodes, co-founder of the WM Bagster and managing
director of organic growth at WM, an internal venture capital
development group said “WM acquired our business in June of 2009.
When they bought us we were in 10 states. Now we are in over
40 states and most parts of Canada,” said Rhodes.
The Bagster bag is WM’s first retail product
and designed to serve do-it-yourselfers and small contractors,
but is also quickly finding other niche markets. “Where we see
a really big pick up in the use of Bagster bags, unfortunately,
which we never considered, is in disaster relief, flooding, hurricanes
and tornados where people are cleaning up and need to source
separate,” Muir commented.
Bagsters can be purchased at home improvement
and hardware stores, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware,
True Value and Do-It-Best.
They are flexible, reinforced polyethylene
dumpsters that are porous to allow rainwater to drain. In the
store, it comes folded in 1.5’ x 2.5’ package weighing approximately
5 pounds. When unfolded, it can hold up to 3 cubic yards or 3,300
pounds. WM claims that the woven material will not tear if punctured.
It can hold sheets of 4 x 8 foot plywood and items as large as
a bathtub. When full, WM boom trucks pick up the bags using straps.
“The suggested retail price is $29.95 and
our retailers do a nice job of adhering to that,” said Rhodes.
“The collection fee varies by market ranging from $79 to $159
depending on the area. It’s a fixed collection fee within a metropolitan
area. If you are in Boston, it’s the same fee in that New England
area. And it’s a fixed collection charge no matter if you are
putting in leaves or steel rebar. The collection rate varies
across metropolitan markets. Boston is at the high end of our
range at $139. In the majority of our markets it’s $99 per bag.
Generally, that cost is 50 to 70 percent less than the smallest
dumpster you can rent. When we came up with the idea we were
definitely trying to fill a void for projects that were too big
for the garbage can but not big enough to justify a dumpster.
If you live in an area where the smallest dumpster you can rent
is 10 yards and you don’t need that size, this is a perfect solution.”
Unlike a traditional dumpster, there is no
delivery cost involved with a Bagster bag and no rental time
limit. A do-it-yourselfer can do a project over several weekends
and call for a pickup when done.
Wes Muir, a spokesman for WM explained collections,
“People can call or go on-line for a pickup and we collect within
three business days. We have a computer program that shows where
the pickups are, the addresses and how many pickups are being
made. Every month we are increasing the amount of pickups, seeing
a lot of multiple bag pickups and just saw one household that
had four at the curb. It’s taken off and become very popular.
It’s a cost effective means to collect this material. Each boom
truck holds 12 to 14 fully loaded bags. The benefit to us is
being able to pick up 12 to 14 bags on one run and avoid the
delivery and pickup of traditional dumpsters. The savings in
operating costs are just tremendous and obviously from an environmental
point of view our carbon footprint is significantly reduced because
of the efficiencies as opposed to one bag per load.”
Muir added, “At this point Bagster bags are
single-use. They are recyclable and we are looking at recycling
them. A lot of the materials we collect are deposited at transfer
stations so we are looking at ways to tip the bag and have it
recycled. We have a number of pilot projects where we are separating
some of those materials.”