The BIG and the Beautiful

SANITATION VEHICLES TEND TO BE large and not particularly speedy — both of which can be good. The size, speed and amount of time they spend on the road make the vehicles moving billboards that private waste companies and local waste departments can use to target customers. Many of the winners of Waste Age's 2005 Truck and Container Design Contest, in fact, report receiving frequent waves, honks (not the angry kind) and encouraging comments from people on the streets.

With that customer connection, companies such as Commercial Clean-up Enterprises and Eureka Recycling, among others, are communicating a program message, reinforcing brand recognition and drumming up local interest in waste programs.

An attractive truck or container design builds relationships within a company, too. After all, clean vehicles with distinct designs create a sense of company or department identity, as well as inspire drivers and crewmembers to sit a little higher in their seats.

This year's design contest winners were chosen because the judges felt they best depicted an overall message with clean, positive images. But Waste Age thanks the more than 35 entrants who understand the value of using a little polish to communicate with the public and boost the waste industry's image. Now, on to the winners.


Flag Container Services Staten Island, N.Y.

With the name Flag Container Services, a red, white and blue décor probably isn't surprising. Yet this hauler has taken the country's signature colors to a level that would make even George Washington proud.

“We wanted to demonstrate our pride in the country,” says dispatcher Joe Costanzo, explaining why a specialized paint job, custom lights along the bumper and cab, and accessories such as wheel spinners adorn the Mack/Heil roll-off truck.

Like the company's other roll-offs, the winning truck body is primarily white, but it also features an eagle head covering the hood surrounded by a rippling flag and stars. The hood design mimics a hard hat created after Sept. 11, 2001, Costanzo says.

Each year, Flag Container Services updates its fleet in preparation for the annual U.S. Diesel Truckin' Nationals at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., where it previously has won best fleet honors. Crewmembers stay late nearly every night for a month to come up with ideas and customize the company's trucks. They also try to incorporate the newest trends in truck design. The spinners on the winning roll-off, for instance, recently became available for diesel trucks.

To make the fleet look uniform, all of the company's packers are painted blue, and tractors are painted red. Some of the vehicles, however, venture from the patriotic theme. One of the packers, for example, boldly sports the Staten Island Yankees minor league baseball team logo.

Costanzo says Flag Container Services is the second-largest waste services provider in New York's five boroughs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island — despite being a private, family owned company. He credits this success, in part, to the company's image, which is visible on the fleet. “People actually like seeing our trucks pull up in front of their house,” he says. “It's great advertising.”


Waste Pro Longwood, Fla.

Gators, grouper, sharks and mermaids are just a few of the creatures that grace the sides of Waste Pro's trucks and containers and keep the company swimming with customers throughout Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. To help establish a local connection, the company paints locally inspired themes on the sides of all of its vehicles.

After consulting with district mangers, Charles Ewing, Waste Pro's president, designs the themes (not limited to water-faring creatures) “to build community pride and establish a local connection,” says Bob Hyres, the company's vice president.

So, trucks at Kennedy Space Center feature a space shuttle. Vehicles in Athens, Ga., home to the University of Georgia, depict the school's mascot, a bulldog. And the winning entry, a Mack/New Way front loader that hails from Gainesville, Fla., where Waste Pro handles a large portion of the city's commercial waste, reminds customers they are in “gator country.”

To provide continuity, all of Waste Pro's trucks, containers, dumpsters and carts use a blue and green environmental color scheme. Another common denominator is keeping vehicles clean, which Hyres says is essential to the company's good service reputation.


Metro Nashville, Tenn., Public Works

When Nashville implemented a curbside recycling system in 2002, it needed to generate enthusiasm. Thus, the character named Curby was born, turning recycling vehicles into lovable message boards. The campaign was so successful that the musically inclined Tennessee city now uses its garbage collection vehicles to sing praises to a new cart-based collection system. The system was rolled out to 120,000 residences in January.

“We learned that trucks are billboards we can use to send a message,” says Chace Anderson, assistant director of Metro Nashville Public Works. The winning Mack/Heil truck is typical of the city's side loaders, which depict three houses lining a neighborhood street, a large orange cart and the slogan, “Help us keep Nashville clean!” in the foreground.

“The neighborhood design on the side of the trucks is supposed to teach people that the carts can help keep their neighborhood clean,” Anderson says. Headshots of four beaming Nashville trash professionals on the trucks also puts a face on a common industry problem — job-related injuries, aches and pains — that will be reduced by the cart-based system.

Anderson says city contractors also have joined the chorus supporting the cart-based system. They've willingly displayed Metro's images on their trucks.


Stafford Solid Waste Warsaw, Ind.

For Stafford Solid Waste, consistency has proven to be just as important as a simple, yet distinct design. Since the family owned business opened 12 years ago, it has remained loyal to the same color scheme and logo for its fleet.

The winning Kenworth/Loadmaster rear loader features a black body with blue and gray pinstripes on the cab that Jim Stafford, one of the company's owners, says highlights the truck body's natural lines. On the other hand, the white container creates a contrast by prominently displaying the company's red, blue and gold logo, which was created by a professional designer.

Stafford says the design is his company's calling card among the approximately 2,500 residential, commercial and industrial customers it serves in Codexo County, Ind. “People recognize us by the color scheme. They don't always remember the name of the company, but they do remember our colors,” he says.


Commercial Clean-Up Enterprises Naples, Fla.

It may be rare to hear a roll-off truck rev its engines, but that hasn't stopped Commercial Clean-up from using a racing theme to decorate its trucks and containers.

Because “racing is very popular in the [south Florida] area,” the construction waste hauling company created a design that is inspired by the nearby Homestead-Miami Speedway, which hosts NASCAR and Indy races, according to Trevor Tibstra, chief operating officer.

NASCAR cars may fly around a track in seconds, but you don't have to worry about missing Commercial Clean-Up's container. The winning container has been painted bright yellow and features decals by Contek. A checkered flag by Accent Signs & Graphics flies across the Peterbilt/Accurate truck.

The result, Tibstra says, is “a magnet for the eye.” As proof, Florida residents wave and flash their lights daily when they see one of the company's trucks.


Pinellas County Utilities Clearwater, Fla.

Trash is rarely pretty, but Pinellas County Utilities is turning that notion inside out. Rather than hiding the contents of the county's Dixie Trailers that collect consumer electronics and household hazardous waste (HHW), the Conservation Resources Department decided to showcase the materials.

The department developed a shrink-wrapped image that creates an illusion that half of the metal on the side of the trailer has been pulled away, revealing the televisions, computers and cans of paint collected throughout the year.

Every month, the county holds one or two mobile HHW and e-waste collections at specific locations. Collections often draw in more than 800 residents in a five-hour period. Residents, in fact, diverted approximately 1 million pounds of household chemicals and electronics in 2004. The collection program's popularity led the county to purchase a new trailer that will service homeowner and condo associations, and civic groups.

“Because we are sending the trailer into the neighborhoods, we wanted something that wasn't an eyesore,” says David Baker, manager of Conservation Resources, of the design. “We wanted something appealing that people would be intrigued by.”

In addition to the stacks of electronics and cans on the side of the trailer, the design incorporates a furry critter. Children who show up at neighborhood collections are invited to find a mouse donned in goggles and a scarf, sitting on top of one of the cans, Baker says.


City of North Miami Beach, Fla.

Does anyone know what those yellow bits were that Pacman ate in the classic arcade game? While that remains a mystery, there's no doubt that the purpose of North Miami Beach's Vacman, a Schwarze vacuum unit, is to collect litter.

The winning vehicle depicts several orange “Vacmen” gobbling garbage with their shark-like teeth. “The unit is a conversation piece,” says Karl Thompson, an assistant director for the city's Public Services Department.

He explains that the department created the design to perk up its public works equipment, which often is in high-visibility areas but does not get replaced often. Instead of worn equipment, painting the sweeper helped to create something that “looks nice and invites attention from the public,” Thompson says.

Good sweeper design also is important because the vehicle moves slowly and is frequently noticed. The sweeper also is often taken to elementary schools.

“The kids are always interested in how it works,” Thompson says.


Windsor Barrel Works Kempton, Pa.

For years, “save the earth” and similarly themed posters have decorated the walls of schools and other public institutions. “There has been a tradition of a connection between graphics education and recycling,” says Philip Haas, president for Windsor Barrel Works.

The company traditionally had containers made from recycled lumber. So when Haas saw local artist Martin Lemelman's poster at the public library, he decided he wanted the image on his recycling containers.

The winning design features a bright, cartoon-like illustration of a community and the various ways to incorporate recycling into residents' lives. The design should help “impress customers with what is possible,” Haas says. “A number of customers have chosen this particular design because it is so appealing.”

Based on the success of its community-based image, Haas encourages cities, counties and institutions to come up with their own recycling container designs that reflect their communities and promote recycling. Honolulu has taken that message to heart. The island city has created a graphic based on photographs taken in the tropical area.


Eureka Recycling Minneapolis

Everyone knows a recycler's favorite color: green. And the trucks used by Eureka Recycling, a nonprofit organization that offers recycling to the Twin Cities Metro area, could not be greener. The International/Labrie trucks are painted in Kermit's signature color and run on a B20 blend of biodiesel fuel.

Dianna Kennedy, director of communications, says the trucks are supposed to be “clean and refreshing” to get people thinking about recycling. The color was selected through an informal office survey, and designer Charlie Merck came up with the art concept. Jason Davidson of Fleet Graphics Services applied the decals.

In summer 2003, when the trucks were unveiled, they traveled to community festivals in St. Paul. There, residents helped name the vehicles, which now are known as Earl E. Bird, which rolls onto the streets at 7 a.m., Cartwright, Digger and Archimedes — inspired by the scientist who coined the phrase, “Eureka! I found it.”

History notes that Archimedes first made the exclamation when he discovered the theory of displacement while weighing gold. “Eureka is appropriate because our company is about finding gold in people's garbage,” Kennedy says. “There is value in garbage, and recycling is one way to find it.” The sides of the recycling container support the company's mission by asking people to “rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Eureka Recycling serves nearly 114,000 households in St. Paul, and reinvests the profits in community programs.


Liquid Environmental Solutions San Diego, Calif.

What could be more pleasant than a day spent playing at the beach or lounging by the pool? Not much, which is why Liquid Environmental Solutions wanted to capitalize on water's unique appeal when designing its Mack/TST-Tri State Tank vacuum tank trucks.

“The trucks really give a sense of clean, glistening water,” says Dana King, senior vice president of development. His company handled 60 million gallons of non-hazardous wastewater in 2004, with the majority of it coming from restaurants' grease traps, as well as prisons and grocery stores.

In addition to polished aluminum, the tanks feature the word “liquid,” which gradually changes in color from black to a light blue, with a blue wavy line running through it. Sandra Sharp, a designer, worked with King to create the logo. The color shift is intended to represent the company's line of business: cleaning up wastewater for reuse.

Novices might think that's a dirty job, but “the employees are ecstatic and have taken the trucks to heart,” King says. Previously, Liquid owned a mélange of trucks collected through acquisitions. The uniform design now conveys a sense of purpose to employees and customers.

“This is an important job,” King says. “If you don't clean [wastewater] up correctly, the sewers will overflow and impact rivers and oceans.”

King adds that the trucks' appearance also helps the company compete against smaller companies in the industry. In the meantime, the trucks continue to sparkle, thanks to a washing service.

Jennifer Grzeskowiak is Waste Age's assistant editor.