Can you provide the solution to your customer’s pest problems? Where do you get started? What steps can you take to minimize the effects of pests on waste storage areas? How can all of this enhance the overall customer experience?
By Justin Blazer

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Pest prevention strategies could add value to communities. Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.com, licensed by Justin Blazer.

Garbage can critters are a fact of reality. Many trash bin owners enjoy pest free storage, but others are not so lucky. Pest infestations create a mess, they lower the standard of health and human safety, they are persistent and they probably should not be eating garbage. Pests vary from the most destructive and concerning (bears) to the most elusive and persistent (flies). For those unlucky pest-ridden can owners, you could be the one to remedy concerns and improve their day-to-day operations. Here is everything you need to know about garbage can pests and minimizing the impact that they have on your customer’s waste storage areas. Feel free to apply the strategies in this article to your own containers as well.

First. The Problem.
Colorado Springs City Council recently enacted a waste container maintenance ordinance, effective March 1, 2020, intended to manage bear presence in the community. Waste containers will either need to be bear-resistant or stored inside until 5 a.m. on collection day; violators will be fined. In 2015, Toronto, ON approved more than $25 million to be spent on critter-proof garbage cans to address resident’s concerns with the local raccoon population. Could there be a growing desire for pest-free waste services? Your business could be the first to implement an effective and mutually beneficial strategy.

The purpose of having a pest prevention strategy extends beyond bears and raccoons. Seagulls rip through coastal bins spewing litter in the environment. In Alaska, majestic Bald Eagles feast on decaying garbage. Urban environments are all too familiar with rat infestations. And, how many cans behind your favorite local restaurant are full of flies and maggots?

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An example of a pest-proof area for your customers (excluding those with bear problems).

Target the Right Customers
Blanket, large-scale approaches from the onset are not particularly effective. For many, they will be a hard sell and even harder to maintain. To capitalize on pest prevention, focus on key segments where pest prevention services will provide an opportunity to enhance the customer experience. Ask yourself, who will appreciate and benefit from pest mitigation efforts? Would your food and beverage customers appreciate the increased standard of health and human safety? How about local businesses looking for better curb appeal around the clock? College and corporate campuses must have a vested interest in keeping their facilities free from pests. Focus your attention on these high-value targets where you can use pest prevention to improve the quality of your services. When you get good at what you do, expand your approach to residents.

Pest Prevention Strategies
Here are the concrete steps you can take to improve waste storage for your customers and mitigate the inconvenient effects of pests. The primary strategies are to invest in high-quality containers, and then upgrade those containers with latches as needed. Provide customers with paths to clean, well-constructed waste storage areas. Finally, contain their overflow and make weekly pickups.

Invest in High-Quality Containers

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Fenced in storage areas will effectively keep medium to large sized pests out.

The most fundamental pest prevention strategy is to choose a high-quality bin. High-quality bins have lids, sturdy bases, and they are made from rigid and durable chew-proof materials. Larger bins will be harder for medium-sized pests to knock over. Dumpsters must also have lids. Metal-reinforced lids will prove to be the most effective lid for a dumpster, especially when adding a latch mechanism. A high-quality bin is a required step if you expect to prevent any pest infestations.

Consider a Latch Mechanism for Containers
When standard high-quality bins are not enough, the next logical step is to consider latch mechanisms. You can purchase brand-new containers with built-in latches or consider adding an aftermarket latch to existing containers. The most important consideration is the size of the pest.

Bears are their own category. Brown bears will be significantly more difficult to deter than black bears. Yet, both require specialized garbage cans if you expect to consistently prevent break-ins. When researching your options, explore the “Certified Bear-Resistant Products” report compiled by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Most of these containers are pre-built with very few aftermarket options. A link to the report is included in the references at the end of this article.

For smaller pests, a variety of aftermarket latches are available and there are containers with pre-installed locks. The most important consideration will be the effectiveness of the solution. Some other questions to consider are:
• Does it work on your containers?
• Can it be integrated into operations via standardization and best practices?
• Will it keep the lid sealed when overflow is present?
• Will you charge upfront or offer a subscription fee?

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Birds, raccoons and bears can make a mess of trash storage areas.

Promote Clean Cans and Storage Areas
Grime compounds the scents of recently tossed trash and turns containers into permanent attractants for garbage can critters. Keeping bins clean will make waste storage areas less appealing. Could a bin cleaning service enhance your offerings? Are there local providers you can contract with? Again, focus on the customers. Which customers would benefit the most from sparkling clean bins and pressure washed waste storage areas? Beyond cleaning the bins, it is important to make sure there is not any loose litter spread throughout the waste storage area. Additionally, scent clips and insecticide clips can be attached to containers to detract or exterminate insects.

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Clean cans are less attractive to pests (primarily insects).

Waste Storage Area Infrastructure
The location of waste storage plays a major role in pest prevention. Fences will deter pests and concrete pads will eliminate the breeding ground for insects. Can you connect your customers to contractors for fences or cement pads? You could go as far as to develop a relationship with a regional builder of trash can enclosures. Enhance your customer’s experience by guiding them on this topic and being a source of trusted solutions.

**Electric fences can be particularly effective in preventing bear problems. For best results, build fences with at least three feet of space inside the perimeter. Additionally, use high visibility wires so that bears can see the wire and create an association. WARNING! Not recommended for areas where crowds or patrons are expected to gather since electric shock may provoke fear or aggression in some bears. Electric fences work best in isolated areas (NOLS, 2012).

Everything Belongs in a Bin
Every bag containing food should be placed inside a closed bin. If food is not placed in a closed bin, then it is an easy target for pests. The simplest strategy is to ensure that every customer has the proper number of bins relative to the amount of food waste they produce. In areas where bags are placed at the curb for collection, consider selling or promoting mint trash bags to prevent rodent infestations.

Frequency of Collection
The longer you allow waste to sit in a container, the more it will decay and the more attractive it will become. When it is feasible, perform weekly pickups in order to help decrease the frequency and strength of pest infestations.

Educating Your Customers
Pest prevention services may not be feasible for your business at this time. Nevertheless, you can equip yourself with the necessary knowledge for addressing all of your customers concerns. The following checklist contains the core steps for preventing small to medium-sized pest infestations at home. As a business you should create a list of the most effective and approved latches. When customers need help, share the following steps:
1. Invest in a high-quality bin if one is not already provided
2. Store your bin on level ground, against a wall, free from “ladders” for pests
3. Keep the can and surrounding area clean
4. Add a collection company approved latch
5. Rinse liquids from recycling and use trash bags for landfill

Key to Success
Pest prevention is possible. Following the steps outlined previously will lead to improved waste storage areas and happier customers. As a business, you will offer higher quality services and meet an elevated standard of environmental performance. In order to succeed and turn a profit, you must follow the one and only rule of garbage can pest prevention. What you do has to work. | WA

Justin Blazer is the Head of Product Development and Operations at Blazer Brand LLC (Sharpsburg, PA). He and his brother, Quinten Blazer, invented Blazer Brand’s first product the Strong Strap, a garbage can utility strap (US Pat. No. 10,294,022). He leads Blazer Brand in developing innovative tools for clean, green, and secure waste streams. Justin can be reached at (412) 779-6501 or e-mail justin.blazer@blazerbrand.com. For more information on Blazer Brand, call (412) 252-2114, e-mail contact@blazerbrand.com or visit www.blazerbrand.com.
*Check out upcoming issues of Waste Advantage Magazine for analysis on the different latches, locks, and straps available on the market today.

References
Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. (2019). Certified Bear-Resistant Products [PDF file]. Retrieved from: http://igbconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/191203_Certified_Products_List.pdf
NOLS. (May 22, 2012). Bear Fence Test [Video file]. Retrieved from: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv2G-aRDvyY

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