Rethinking the Commercial Dumpster

March 9, 2020

8 Min Read

With the introduction of the new, WCS Modular Dumpster in 2019 by Waste Container Systems, now would be a good time to reexamine the pros and cons of container choices for commercial dumpster service. 

Back in 1936, Dempster Brothers in Knoxville, Tennessee patented the Dempster Dumpster designed to make it easier to collect waste from their construction sites. It didn’t take long for the dumpster to become very popular and as a result, they closed their construction business and focused on selling dumpsters. Except for the use of new materials and coatings, the general configuration of dumpsters has not changed much since the early models. The concept is elegant in its simplicity – a steel container with fork pockets that can be picked up and dumped in a truck on site for transport to a disposal facility. Prior to this invention the trash and containers were hauled away. 

According to data from IBISWorld, the 2019 U.S. dumpster rental market generated 405.5 million dollars. This figure represents the rental of the container only and does not include other fees charged by the hauler. For haulers to capture more market share they need to offer the best container solution for their customers and reduce operating expenses. 

Important Decision Factors

There are many factors that go into choosing which type of dumpster is best for your customers and your business. Here are some questions to ask when deciding which type of container would best meet your needs:

  1. What type of climate/weather will the container be exposed to?

  2. Will the driver have to move the container by hand from an enclosed area?

  3. What type of materials will be put in the container?

  4. Will the container need to be animal proof?

  5. Will the container need to be locked?

  6. Can the container be repaired on-site?

  7. What is the cost of repairs? How long will the container be out of service?

  8. How easy is the container to deliver and service?

  9. How much space is required for storage when not in use?

Haulers currently can choose between three types of dumpsters:

1. Steel 


2. Poly/Plastic


3. WCS Modular


Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type of dumpster. 


The standard steel dumpster’s main strength is the durability of steel. They can take a beating in all kinds of weather and a hold high volume of trash. In some cases, steel is the only material strong enough to contain the type of waste being dumped such as construction debris. There are situations when the weight of the steel dumpster is a major drawback as it makes it more difficult to move, deliver, pick up, and can result in injury to the employee.

The design of the dumpster makes it possible to stack only 3 of them and companies need acres of land to store them. Eventually, steel containers will rust, especially the bottoms. In some locations, such as coastal cities, salt air will cause the dumpsters to rust more quickly and result in the need for more frequent repair or replacement. Many companies exist that specialize in replacing bottoms and refurbishing containers. Some will even come to the site to do the work, but in most cases, the container is taken out of service for repair. 

Poly or Plastic

Some drawbacks of steel models were addressed with the invention of the plastic or poly, molded dumpsters first used in the 1980s. Plastic dumpsters are significantly lighter than steel and most of its components will not rust. It can crack in extremely cold weather. The use of one-piece molded dumpsters allowed manufacturers flexibility in color, UV blocking, etc… They are also much quieter than steel models. For many applications, plastic dumpsters represented a major improvement over steel. Like steel dumpsters, plastic models typically can only stack 3 high for shipping and storage. Some parts can be replaced such as lids and casters. However, if the container wall cracks the dumpster cannot be repaired and must be replaced.  For more on plastic dumpsters see Pedrito Gell’s excellent article, Rethinking Plastic FELs in Waste Advantage Magazine. 

WCS Modular Dumpsters – Steel Frame with Bag Liner

The third option in dumpster design was introduced to the market by Waste Container Systems in 2019. This new option combines the strength of steel with the durability of a poly bag in a modular design. Modular dumpsters are repairable on-site and weigh about the same amount as a plastic or poly dumpster of similar size. The 2-yard model weights 280 lbs. The weight is significantly less than steel of the same size which exceeds 500 lbs.  The use of a poly bag as the liner for the container means this type of container will not be useable in all situations. Construction waste and other heavy, sharp materials would damage the bag. Various bag options allow the container to hold liquid waste. 

Since the frame of the container is made of steel, it will eventually rust. Parts that rust or are damaged can be replaced on-site.  The primary benefits of this type of container are that it can be collapsed for shipping and storage, weighs much less than steel and nearly all parts can be replaced on-site. When folded for shipping or storage the units can be stacked 9 high. The lower weight and modular design of this container make it possible to deliver to the site with a pickup truck or similar vehicle. The lighter weight of the container makes it much easier to move in the field, reducing fatigue and chance of injuries for the driver.

Comparing the Options


Four Key Differences

In comparing the three options, four key differences stand out between steel and poly versus the modular frame with bag design:

  1. Number of units that can be stacked,

  2. Repairability on site, 

  3. Ease of deliverability, and 

  4. Storage space requirements and ease of movement. 

The new modular bag option is superior in these respects as it can be stacked 9 high (2-yard size) and all parts are replaceable/repairable on site. Much less space is required to store the stacked, modular units allowing them to be placed in or outside. In certain climates, the ability to store containers inside will preserve the finish and cleanliness of the unit making it easier to deploy. The unibody design of steel and poly do result in greater durability and the ability to resist damage from some types of waste and hold liquid waste without leaking. 


No Need for a Class B Driver


In choosing a dumpster it is also important to consider the equipment and personnel needed to deliver the product to the site. Given the nationwide shortage of Class B drivers, haulers would benefit from choosing the modular dumpster model as it can be delivered with a pickup or other smaller vehicle. In any case, the ability to deliver a dumpster without specialized equipment or drivers with a Class B license will save time and money for the hauler. 

Life Cycle Cost

An important consideration when choosing a container is the total cost over the life cycle of the product. Factors to consider when determining life cycle cost include:

  1. The initial cost of the unit.

  2. Profit generated by the unit.

  3. How long will the container last before it will need service or replacement?

  4. How much does it cost to repair or replace parts?

  5. What are the costs associated with storage and delivery?

  6. Should the container require repair or refurbishing, how long will the container be unavailable for use? (Lost Revenue)

In evaluating these factors, in compared to steel and poly, the modular frame with bag liner design offers significant cost savings over time because of its repairability on site which keeps the containers in the field, the ability to store many units in a smaller space (in or outside), and the ease of delivery without the need for a driver with a Class B license. 

Haulers now have three options to consider when purchasing containers for their business. Each has unique strengths and weaknesses. What would the Dempster Brothers choose?

Take the next step to save time and increase profits by switching to the new WCS Modular and Collapsible Dumpster. 

Call today – 763-404-4968

Andy Sorensen, Owner and Vice President of WCS

Andy Sorensen is a successful entrepreneur and has started several multimillion-dollar companies. His business ventures have included a moving, freight brokerage, and most recently, a trash company – GarbageMan, A Green Company. GarbageMan grew rapidly making the Inc. 500’s list of fastest-growing companies 3 times. His unique ability to manage logistics and incorporate innovative sales techniques made GarbageMan successful and competitive with national haulers. His efforts, along with his team, led to a successful sale of GarbageMan to national hauler Waste Management. Following the sale, Andrew applied his knowledge of the trash industry to the development of two spin-off companies: Waste Container Systems; a lightweight commercial dumpster.  Sales Stryke; a technology-based, ‘buy now’ feature for waste haulers and service companies to capture online sales. These two companies are poised to revolutionize the waste and service industries.

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