Dump Parking Lot Trash Cans

Contract sweeper explains why too many cans leads to more waste on the lot

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I never thought I (or anyone) could write an article about a trash can!

Over 26 years in the sweeping industry I have seen, and smelled, a lot. I have come to the conclusion that parking lot trash cans should not be used.  Oh, I know “surely the litter will be massive,” or “now that is not very eco-friendly.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Let me pass along a few observations. 

What does a parking lot trash can say? It says, “I am a receptacle for the immediate area’s waste,” but the problem is it becomes a receptacle for waste from outside the immediate area. People think, “Why put my trash on the curb in front of my house and be charged, when I can go to the store, shop, and leave my garbage there?”  One stop shop and drop!

Big box stores have put 15 to 20 trash cans throughout some of their parking lots, plus a few on the sidewalk. Now don’t get me wrong, the trash cans on the sidewalk I am in favor of. They are very helpful in litter control, mostly litter produced on site. Just walking out of the store and needing to throw away that bag -- you know, that 5-gallon-size bag that is holding one small item you just purchased -- or a “bladder buster” soft drink cup, etc.  This is trash that is produced by store-purchased items, not from offsite.

When properties put trash cans all over their parking lot, they are saying, “Hey, we are not only your local retailer, we are your local trash dump.”

Items such as bed sheets, brake disc pads, oil filters, days of newspapers, feminine hygiene products, blankets, car batteries, curtains, baby diapers -- just anything that will fit through the trash can’s opening. And if it doesn’t fit, just put it beside the container. As long as it’s nearby it is considered disposed of.

The initial intention of the parking lot can is good: Keep the lot clean.  But like so many good ideas, this one does not work.

People are trashy in this throw-away society, but if the cans were not in the parking lot these items would not be there, either.

I have yet to see any “Drive By Dumpings” as in throwing out large amounts of trash from the bed of a pickup truck or out a car window on to the parking lot. But if people can calmly get out of their parked car and take that big bag of debris and shove it in the trash can, it just is all right…NOT!!

There are always exceptions, but I will take my chances. Get rid of the trash cans and I’ll sweep up litter produced from the immediate area.

Believe me, these deadbeats will drive behind the store, find the nearest dumpster and throw their trash away, not strew across the front of the parking lot.

This also drives up the cost for debris removal, either by the retailer and/or the sweeping contractor. Somewhere over the years, solid refuse disposal has worked its way into the way of the sweeping contractor, one bag at a time.

I can only hope someone reads this article and takes heed.

Mitch Barkman is president of Buckeye Sweeping Inc., an Akron, Ohio. A member of the North American Power Sweeping Association, Buckeye Sweeping specializes in commercial and industrial sweeping in the Akron and greater Cleveland area.