When planning for waste management … don’t forget about the animals!   

Gary Jonsson

As populations increase, and cities and towns expand into wildlife habitats, encroaching on wildlife means reducing their living spaces while bringing along our “food attractions,” particularly garbage.  This requires a re-design of traditional waste containers so that we can peacefully coexist with our wild four-legged friends. Animal-resistant secure waste storage containers offer a range of solutions that address the needs of waste collection in various wildlife-rich areas.

Automation that Encroaches on Animals  

Automated waste collection systems are very popular for their efficiency and labor savings and to manage the type and amount of waste collected. Cost savings are found through reduction of labor costs, injuries and increase in overall efficiency. A poly cart automated system makes the “reduce, reuse and recycle” process work even better. Environmental initiatives have led to legislation that requires waste to be diverted into two or three streams for garbage, recycled items and organics.  However, the poly cart, which is at the heart of this collection method, shows no heart for the surrounding wildlife. This method replaces wildlife natural hunting ground with garbage containers that can be easily ripped into, or worse, something that the animals can get caught or impaled on.

This creates an ongoing conflict that must be carefully managed. Automated systems have been implemented to counteract this problem, but often efficiencies in the process end up ignoring the local wildlife. When creating these systems, very few considerations about the capabilities of our wildlife friends are incorporated into the design. For example, how easily can a bear access or even destroy any plastic container? Raccoons, mice, rats, squirrels and other small critters can chew through most types of plastic, but are not considered in the design of many automated waste disposal systems. The result is that there are more wildlife conflict issues than ever before. Much of this conflict could be put into the “nuisance” category; however, sometimes this conflict leads to injuries for residents and often ends up with dead wildlife, especially bears. It has been proven repeatedly that bears and other wildlife that become habituated to eating garbage will continue to do so, and, therefore, will need to be exterminated. Bear-proof waste containers prevent bears from accessing garbage and, thus, do not entice them to stick around. Bears may well be saving their own life as they give up on trying to get into the bear-proof containers and move on to less populated areas.

Wildlife Resistance Storage Only Six Days Per Week 

It is not easy to find the balance to efficiently address all of the issues, but there are usable solutions available in the marketplace now, with many more realistic solutions currently in development. There are improved poly carts available that have bear-resistant metal frames around them. However, there is a big issue with many of these: most of the bear resistant polycarts have a locking mechanism that needs to be released on collection day to work with automated pickup. On collection day, these containers are unlocked and are therefore not animal resistant. The bears and other wildlife know this, so they will go after the garbage on collection day. This starts a vicious cycle where wildlife becomes habituated to eating our garbage. When this happens, it is a cycle that is all but impossible to break. Until poly carts have been designed to stay securely closed right up until pickup, they will always be vulnerable to wildlife conflict, and the problem will not be resolved.

Using a bear-proof container addresses the needs of the resident for secure waste storage, while eliminating garbage as a food source for the bears—thus encouraging them to find alternate means of satisfying their hunger. Bear resistant container features should include design features that prevent bears from being able to grab access points. In many cases, the containers need to have additional guards to help with the largest bears.  Where possible, the container should be able to be secured to a solid base, like a cement pad or a tree or post. The more the container is secured, the more effective it will be. Hinge flaps can notify waste collectors that there are garbage and/or recycling items in your bin for pick-up. The hinge is stainless steel, and can be mounted anywhere on the bin. The top hinge flips open to reveal “Garbage” on a yellow or red background or “Recycling” on blue. This allows garbage to be securely locked for as long as possible and has the least chance for animal exposure when unlocked.

Working with Animal Resistant Containers 

The best animal resistant containers not only need to keep wildlife out, but they also need to be safe for the wildlife, so they will not get injured if they attempt to access the container. They also need to be safe and easy to use for the property owner and waste collection staff. Steel bins that are certified “Bear Resistant” will always be stronger than plastic containers, but when plastic containers are required to be a part of an automated collection process, they need to remain animal resistant right up until collection to be effective.  There are new designs for polycarts entering the market now that will address this. When using a steel bin, the lids will need to be lockable, with a device that the waste collector can easily access. One type of container uses a “trigger release” snap hook that is attached to a lanyard (to prevent it being lost).  The lid should be safe for the collector and the property owner (including children and elderly users).  Gas shocks on the lid make it safer for all users.

When working with steel animal resistant containers, there are several things to consider, including:

  • Municipal by-laws
  • Collection processes by haulers
  1. Does the collector use manual or automated processes (what are the plans moving forward?)
  2. How close does the waste collector require the container to be to the road
  • Allowances for winter snow removal needs
  • The costs associated with using animal resistant products. All animal resistant containers will have higher costs than basic containers. Steel containers will cost more than plastic products, but they will be stronger. Some of the costs to consider, include:
  1. The cost of the container—The best designed containers will typically cost more to build. Rust resistant steel with the best paint will always cost more.
  2. Installation costs—If the container is mounted on a concrete pad, then that will be an additional cost. Securing the containers with a chain or cable will also add cost.
  3. Notification system—If using a steel bin, a flag notification system is needed to indicate to collectors whether garbage, organics or recycling is ready for collection.

Providing Real Solutions

As populations continue to grow and encroach into wilderness areas, wildlife should be considered. There are capital and operations costs associated with allowing for wildlife, but real and social costs will always be more than the initial investment. Not allowing for wildlife has already cost so much. Thousands of bears have needlessly been destroyed as they have been “habituated” to our garbage for food.  Many property owners have been seriously injured from encounters with bears (and even smaller critters). Raccoons have thrived to the point that their populations far exceed what they should be. The decision to manage these choices often must come from those in government, but all of us can contribute by insisting that our political leaders consider all factors when establishing and implementing waste management strategies. Waste equipment manufacturers need to bring innovative solutions to the market, while waste collection companies need to show that they are proactive in the way that they design their services.  In doing these things, not only are we all providing real solutions, but there can also be many economic opportunities for those who plan for these things.

Gary Jonsson is in Sales and Business Development for TuffBoxx (Princeton, ON), which manufactures a broad range of functional, durable waste management and storage containers. Gary has been involved with the design and manufacturing of animal resistant products for more than 13 years.  He has had extensive experience in welding, fabrication and manufacturing for more than 30 years. With his involvement in the design of animal resistant products, Gary has consulted with bear and wildlife experts from around the world to ensure that what was designed would provide real solutions that reduced the conflict that comes when wildlife is attracted.  He is passionate about protecting wildlife, while making property owners feel safer, and providing workable solutions for the waste collection process. TuffBoxx containers are made in a ready-to-assemble design, and can be shipped unassembled in boxes or assembled on a pallet.  All TuffBoxx products are manufactured in Princeton, ON and available factory direct or through distributors and dealers throughout North America.  For more information, call (844) 426-5553, e-mail email [email protected] or visit www.usetuffboxx.com.