MAINTAINING COLLECTION routes, managing landfills, meeting safety requirements and emission standards are merely a few of the brass tacks solid waste managers handle every day. These tasks amount to a full-time job — but for many companies, it isn't enough.
“Solid waste has come a long way, and it's become an industry that requires more than staying in compliance with environmental regulations; it requires creativity,” says Kelvin L. Baker, director of public services for North Miami Beach, Fla., and winner of the Best Container category in Waste Age's 25th Annual Truck and Container Design Contest.
Waste management is evolving into a creative pursuit, and the more than 35 entrants in this year's Design Contest prove that the people who fuel this industry are evolving, too. In addition to providing good service, the contest winners concur that a clean, cleverly designed truck can be the sole selling point that attracts new customers and keeps competition on its toes. And it doesn't always take an enormous budget and staff to pull off a winning design.
Waste Age congratulates all who are taking extra effort to brighten the waste industry's image.
Best Overall Design
Allentown Bureau of Recycling and Solid Waste
It's hard to miss big, orange beasts lumbering down the historic streets of Allentown, Pa. However, this is what makes the two rear loaders such effective components of the city's anti-litter campaign.
Allentown's Bureau of Recycling and Solid Waste uses private haulers to collect trash and recyclables from the city's 36,500 households. But when emptying the 800 public litter bins around town became a nuisance for the regular hauler, the bureau decided to buy two trucks and manage the service in-house. Then, in keeping with the bureau's anti-litter messages — that convey a sense of civic pride aimed at a diverse population — the bureau decided to paint its trucks orange.
According to Bureau Manager Betsy Levin, Allentown is an old, dense city with low trees and power lines and tight alleys that are difficult to navigate. But the two Sterling trucks with Wayne Engineering packer bodies loudly proclaim the anti-litter campaign message, “Don't Trash Allentown,” while maneuvering around some important real estate. “These trucks are travelling in our highly populated center cities,” Levin says.
Don't Trash Allentown is a 4-year-old anti-litter campaign that residents are familiar with. Billboards and bumper stickers brandishing the slogan are common sights throughout town. But the message's exposure has increased after the bureau adjusted the message to fit the larger, moving canvases.
The concept for the Don't Trash Allentown campaign was formed by the bureau, Allentown-based advertising agency Keenan-Nagle, and local citizens. “We worked with the city staff as well as community leaders to find out what would be an effective campaign to reach the public,” says Ann Saurman, the bureau's education and enforcement manager. “A lot of feedback came from community meetings we held with the Latino population, which is our largest minority population.”
The bottom stripe of the campaign design contains different messages, so the content is not the same on every truck or billboard. “Allentown is changing with diversity,” Saurman says. “We wanted to make the rotating message say, ‘this is your town, too.’”
The trucks have been emptying litter receptacles since June 2002, and Levin says they've been successful. “People are happy because the litter is not overflowing, and the city is cleaner,” she says. “It's been interesting, and the unintended consequence of doing a good job is people now are stuffing household trash in [the public litter bins].”
Meanwhile, the bureau is researching alternative opportunities to showcase the trucks and spread the Don't Trash Allentown message. One of the trucks was the final float in the city's 2002 Halloween parade. The rear loaders trailed the rest of the floats, collecting rubbish from spectators along the way. The truck made another celebrity appearance at the city's most recent Puerto Rican festival, held on July 27.
Best Commercial Container
City of North Miami Beach, Fla.
Distinct designs may not be enough to overhaul the public's perception of garbage, but administrators overseeing waste for Florida's city of North Miami Beach wouldn't mind if they helped just a little.
North Miami Beach handles residential and commercial sanitation services for approximately 42,000 people who live within 5.2 square miles. Each year, the city selects one truck that receives a new design. So in 2003, Designer Eduardo Gurgel, with coaching from Karl Thompson, assistant director of public services for the solid waste division, and Kelvin L. Baker, director of public services, chose an image with universal appeal.
The attention-grabbing colors and large message on the Hesco container proclaim the presence of the “Trash Buster,” a fixture on North Miami Beach streets.
Trash Buster is spelled in gigantic bright orange, yellow, red and blue letters, sharply contrasted by a black container body. An industrial crane appears to be dragging the “T” off the truck.
“Our design is a statement not just for our city, but for the waste industry as a whole,” Baker says. “Historically, when you talk about garbage, you picture something very unpleasant to look at. One of the major reasons we [decorate our trucks] is to help reshape and promote a positive image. We don't want people thinking we all drive around in dirty, smelly trucks.”
The can't-miss design also has opened up dialogue in the community and creates pride among the city's drivers, who frequently receive queries and compliments on the truck, Thompson says.
Best Rear Loader
Oceanside Rubbish Inc.
Tourists can be particular about their trash. They want it placed in small, unobtrusive containers; they want it removed frequently so it doesn't create odors; and it wouldn't hurt if the truck that came to pick it up is easy on the eyes.
To meet these tourist-town demands, Oceanside Rubbish, Wells, Maine, operates beach scene-decorated trucks seven days per week from April through November, and six days per week from December to March. The hauler collects commercial waste and operates curbside residential waste and recycling services for 90 percent of the seaside towns of southern Maine.
Although getting customers is not the main obstacle for this 35-year-old business, keeping customers can be, says Oceanside's Owner Dennis Hudon. So to satisfy seasonal customers, drivers operate a rear loader, instead of front loaders, requiring the driver to get out of the vehicle and physically handle each container. This ensures areas around trash bins are more likely to be kept clean, Hudon explains. Oceanside also sends out a newsletter to keep clients informed of company and local news.
To tie Oceanside's customer-service approach and newsletter together, the company hired local artist John Malone last year to spruce up the fleet by painting one of the company's trucks. His design of a local landmark commemorating Wells' 350th anniversary received such critical praise that the company hired him again in 2003 to paint a beach-scape on one of the company's International rear loaders.
Malone's freehand, spray-paint style will be put to use again next year when the hauler decorates another truck. Oceanside plans to paint a new truck every year, according to Hudson.
“We [service] a large volume of seasonal beach customers, and they like seeing the pictures,” Hudon says. “It's great for the city, and people enjoy seeing the artwork. It's our personal touch.”
Best Recycling Vehicle
Greenville County Solid Waste Greenville, S.C.
The Solid Waste Division of Greenville County, S.C., takes care of recyclers who have to take care of themselves. With approximately 380,000 residents spread across the county, curbside recycling service is not a privilege for every household. But with the help of drop-off sites provided by Greenville County, the non-curbside population recycles up to 292 tons per month of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel.
The county has placed collection bins at landfills, county convenience centers and in the parking lots of several businesses. Often, the bins fill up so quickly that the county patrols them, ensuring they are regularly emptied and cleaned. Maintaining the site has its privileges, chiefly a nice set of wheels to tool around in.
This isn't a stereotypical garbage truck: The solid waste division's Dodge Ram van is wrapped in a custom design by Greenville-based Bumper 2 Bumper Media and features blue and green arrows, recycling symbols and photo illustrations of bottles.
“Seeing the van riding around has encouraged more recycling at the drop-off sites, and it reminds people to recycle in general when they see the plastic bottles,” says Wendy McNatt, recycling education specialist for Greenville County Solid Waste Division.”
Additionally, the van helps the county pitch the recycling idea to local businesses so it can expand the drop-off program, McNatt says.
“We have a lot of citizens who just leave recyclables by the outside of the containers,” she says. “If we have to convince retailers to put recycling containers on their property, we can assure them that we have someone who rides around and maintains the containers so they are never eyesores.”
Greenville's solid waste division operates 23 recycling drop-off sites throughout the county that are free to residents and available 24 hours per day.
Best Roll-Off/Tilt Frame
Guy's Waste Service
As a third-generation garbageman, Jacob Fried is bringing 21st century style to his father's waste business. General manager of Macon, Ga.-based Guy's Waste Service, Fried is slowly taking over the business from his father, Guy, and adding some of his own touches to an old, family tradition. As proof of this, just look at the company's roll-off.
Sporting a nearly neon color pattern, the Mack truck's paint job was inspired by Fried's hobby. “I'm big into motorcross, racing and four-wheeling,” he says. “You often see uncommon color combinations on racing motorcycles. People wonder who in the world picked out those colors. It stands out; that's why I picked it.”
Guy's Waste Service collects commercial and industrial waste and hauls it to the company-owned transfer station in Byron, Ga. In addition to helping the company stand out among its competitors — who Fried says typically operate white trucks with a standard logo — the design also supports the company's environmental message.
“Extreme green and extreme blue are colors of the earth,” Fried says. “We're not out to harm the environment; We want to get the trash cleaned up.”
The pictured truck was painted by Fried's friend Jonathan Harris.
Best Vacuum Tank Truck
Arizona Waste Services
Garbage trucks are rarely considered glamorous machines, but the vacuum tank truck gets the dirtiest rap. It's difficult to be pretty when your job is to suck human waste from portable toilets. But the vacuum tank vehicle used by Arizona Waste Services, based in Glendale, remains a beauty.
“We get a lot of compliments and calls on the truck because it stands out, and it's clean,” says Greg Schopp, operations manager. “It always looks like a brand new truck.”
Customers require the truck's services to help clean up construction sites and special events. Arizona Waste's entire fleet, which includes six roll-offs and two front-loaders, collects commercial waste 24 hours per day.
The customized design on the Ford vacuum truck with a Glendale Welding body features a hand-painted mural on the back. “Some of the companies' [trucks] around here are real plain Jane,” Schopp says. “We like to dress ours up to stand out. All the pinstriping and detail is hand-done.”
The design helps local residents take notice of Arizona Waste's services, as well as the truck driver. “We're probably the only company in town that has a female driver for a toilet route. She takes good care of the truck,” Schopp says.
Best Side Loader
Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Dept. of Public Works, Div. of Waste Management
Sometimes you don't have to be talented, or even a real person, to make it big in Nashville, Tenn. Just look at Curby's rise to fame, and you'll see how a catchy name and a pretty face is all it takes to turn heads in Music City, USA.
The Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Department of Public Works, Division of Waste Management started a residential curbside recycling program immediately following Earth Day 2002. Eighty side-loader routes now serve 115,000 single-family homes that participate in the program, which is funded by property taxes. The division has set a 25 percent recycling rate for the residential stream by 2004.
To stir up interest in the burgeoning recycling program, Recycling Coordinator Sharon Smith says the division decided to graphically call attention to it by using side loaders as travelling billboards. “We wanted to have a logo that was indicative of Nashville,” she says. “Because it features our phone number, our call center receives a lot of calls.”
But who, or what, is Curby?
“We came up with the idea of having a mascot called Curby when we decided to start an education campaign,” Smith explains. “Eventually, people just started calling the trucks Curby, the driver Curby, the containers Curby, me Curby.”
Because Curby's moving billboards have worked well, the division is planning to emblazon the trucks with new messages, such as instructions on what to do with household hazardous waste, Smith says.
Residents are waiting to see which hat, or painted design, Curby will be wearing next season.
Best Front Loader
KmG Hauling Inc.
Potomac Falls, Va.
Getting noticed in the Washington, D.C.-area doesn't always require embarrassing political shenanigans. A bold paint job and daily care does the trick for KmG Hauling Inc., Potomac Falls. Va.
Company president Hugo M. Garcia, started the business in 2001 after completing his former job as strength coach for the Washington Redskins. He may have gotten the idea to pursue a career in waste management from his father, Aurelio Garcia, who ran Garcia's Inc., a commercial waste hauling business, for more than 20 years.
But Hugo Garcia, age 30, has decided to add some sass to his fleet by commissioning multi-colored flames on each of the company's vehicles. He says the idea came from a popular tow truck design.
“In the D.C. area, you see some ratty trucks … Our marketing scheme [believes] if our clients see how clean our trucks are, they'll want to be with us for the long haul.”
The flames were painted by Artworks, Nokesville, Va., and project a young image that does not focus heavily on a trash theme, Hugo says. Additionally, the trucks are washed every week to maintain their appearance.
“The flames have attracted a lot of people; We get calls, and the first thing people say is, ‘We've seen your truck.’”
Lynn Schenkman is a Waste Age assistant editor.