Residents commonly bring their collection carts to the curb once per week, depending on the contracts their municipalities have with their waste haulers. For a piece of equipment that is used so frequently, municipalities often look at durability and design as key factors in the selection process.

Both the cart supplier and the municipality play roles when it comes to maintenance and customer care for these containers. The manufacturer aides the municipality in best care practices, maintenance and damaged products, and municipalities help residents in their communities resolve these issues.


According to Derrick Masimer, vice president of sales and operations for Toter, Charlotte, North Carolina, several variables must be considered when deciding which cart is right for a residential collection program.

When selecting and purchasing carts, Masimer says municipalities should take the lead. “As the trend toward privatization continues, many municipalities allow their waste management providers to select their trash cart vendors,” he says. “Seizing an opportunity to do better, an increasing number of municipalities have chosen to purchase their carts directly from the manufacturer, resulting in significant savings.”

The first benefit of a municipally owning its carts is the control it gives the community. “If a municipality that directly purchases its carts needs to change waste haulers due to unsatisfactory service or other issues, the incumbent contractor can bring in a new contractor without the removal of carts,” Masimer says. “The accompanying interruption in service and expense of additional assembly and delivery processes can also be avoided.”

Another issue that can be avoided through a municipally owned cart fleet is an extended service life. Haulers tend to look at upfront costs rather than at long-term savings, which can lead to an increase in the number of repairs and replacements needed, Masimer says.

Don Isabella, Northeast sales manager for SSI Schaefer Systems, Charlotte, North Carolina, says the type of collection equipment being used also comes into play when selecting carts. Determining if the hauler is using automated, semiautomated or both types of equipment can help determine the cart features a municipality should consider.


Toter and SSI Schaefer promote different methods of manufacturing: rotational molding and injection molding. Both are designed to hold up to weather, collection truck technology or the normal wear and tear that occurs with frequent use.

Masimer says rotationally molded cart bodies tend to have a longer life expectancy than injection molded bodies. For rotationally molded cart bodies, plastic pellets are inserted into the molds, which are then rotated in an oven.

Injection molding, on the other hand, injects melted plastic into a mold.

“Injection molded cart manufacturers claim a 10-year service life, while rotationally molded carts claim a 15 to 20-year life span,” Masimer says. “Rotationally molded carts also have a third of the failure rate than injection molded carts do.”

By contrast, Isabella says SSI Schaefer’s injection molded bodies allow for “more intricate safety and ergonomic design features.” Some of these features, he says, include sturdy and comfortable lid handles and larger openings for hand grips designed to facilitate pushing and pulling of the carts.


In Key West, Florida, Toter carts are used to collect commercial and residential solid waste, recycling and yard waste. The municipality chose Toter because it was a preferred manufacturer for Waste Management (WM), Houston, the city’s contracted hauler, according to Dee Dee Green, solid waste coordinator for the city of Key West.

If a cart isn’t properly manufactured, Masimer says, it could crack when lifted with an automated arm during collection.

Green says other causes of cracking in Key West are weather and improper disposal. “When people do things like put improper waste in their cart, it has an effect on the plastic,” she says.

“The plastic gets brittle and breaks easier because of the sun, too. We tell people to store them in the shade,” she adds.

Manufacturers have differing views on rotationally molded and injection molded collection carts.

Also, when high tide comes in, Green says the saltwater can damage the wheels of carts that are left at the curb.

Key West residents use concrete-colored 96-gallon carts to collect municipal solid waste (MSW) and green containers to collect commercial waste. The color difference helps WM to decipher which is which.

In the instance that a cart mix-up takes place or a cart is damaged from use or age, Key West allows residents to call WM directly or to send in a request for service from the citizens’ problems section of the city’s website. From there, WM picks up the damaged cart, replaces it with a temporary cart, repairs it using in-house stock parts and then brings it back.

To avoid these types of incidents, WM and Key West send mailers to residents once per year with how-tos and tips on cart maintenance, such as washing the cart with vinegar and baking soda or sprinkling baking soda in the bottom of a cart to absorb odors and liquids.

Reminders of what to place in the carts are also given to residents. “Our big thing is teaching people that yard waste isn’t the garbage in your yard, it’s the leaves and sticks,” Green says.


Jon Carlson started as the solid waste manager for Brentwood, California, about 18 years ago. Before that, he worked for several private hauling companies. He used his past waste collection experience to select SSI Schaefer’s carts.

“In [my past experience], I saw some terrible cart management processes either by [the hauling companies’] own design or a competitive bidding process,” Carlson says. “Companies had a mishmash of cart types and sizes and couldn’t keep an inventory of spare parts. They just basically threw damaged carts away.”

Carlson prefers injection molded cart bodies over rotationally molded ones, and, because of that preference, started a partnership with SSI Schaefer.

The city of Brentwood doesn’t use the same methods as Key West or employ radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging to track carts. Instead, Carlson says manually tracked serial numbers do the trick for keeping carts in check. All carts are tracked by account, and over the years the serial numbers have helped residents find missing or stolen carts and repair damaged carts. The city has implemented an $80 replacement fee on residential carts to encourage repair rather than replacement.

“If someone calls and says it’s missing, we don’t automatically drop them a new cart. We tell them the serial number and ask them to find it before ordering a new one,” Gary Parenti, Brentwood solid waste supervisor, says.

Other than the serial system, he says, another method that keeps these carts on the curb is on-site repairs.

If the cart is too damaged for repair, the city replaces it and checks to see if the issue is covered under SSI Schaefer’s 10-year warranty. If it isn’t, it’s taken back to SSI Schaefer’s Lodi, California, location and recycled.

“We get a little bit of revenue from the plastic,” Carlson says.

To avoid damage to carts and the need for extensive repairs and replacement, Brentwood uses a tagging system to help educate residents on proper cart care and recycling. If a cart is not set out properly, the collection truck driver will tag it and service it. If mistakes are made repeatedly at the same residence, the driver will tag the cart and stop servicing that residence.

“That causes the resident to call and we have an in-depth conversation about proper set out,” Carlson says. “[Education] is why we have so many carts still out there—if you use it for what it’s intended for and don’t exceed its limitations, it should have a long life.”

The author is assistant editor of Waste Today and can be reached at