Good Things Come in BagsAugust 3, 2010
Have we been underestimating the energy saving potential of the bag? In the quest to cut down on the use of wasteful plastic bags, many of us have turned to reusable shopping bags made of nylon or canvas to tote our groceries. If you've tried out these reusable shopping bags, you've no doubt realized that you can fit many times more items into these bags.
The same principle is at work in a new concept from Waste Management: the Bagster® bag. The energy saving idea embodied in these big green bags is both a new product and a service currently being offered by Waste Management for people who have a waste disposal need that is larger than a regular trash pickup but smaller than a dumpster rental. As you might expect from the name, the Bagster bag is a cross between a dumpster and an extremely oversized shopping bag.
Of course, the Bagster bag is far more than a gigantic heavy duty trash bag; it's a high tech, rip-resistant, flexible dumpster that can hold up to 3,300 lb. On top of that, Waste Management's service capabilities make this dumpster bag more versatile, efficient, and convenient than a traditional steel dumpster.
How Does the Bagster Service Work?
You might be thinking: "How's an enormous trash bag going to be convenient or efficient? Won't it take twenty grown men to hoist it into a garbage truck?" That's where the service aspect comes into play.
In a nutshell, the Bagster service works like this: First, buy a Bagster bag for your project from any number of home improvement or hardware stores and set it up within 16 feet of the nearest street. Then, fill it with your project debris, household junk, or other approved items that are not being recycled or reused. Last, simply call or go online to schedule a pickup. One of Waste Management's dedicated Bagster service trucks will come within 72 hour hours to haul away your Bagster bag and the material inside. That's it, you're done.
How is the Bagster bag collected?
These trucks aren't like your average garbage trucks, which use a front loader to dump trash from the dumpster into a compacter. Instead, they are outfitted with an onboard crane to hoist your filled Bagster bag up through the air, depositing it safely inside a box.
So what if objects poke through the bag as it's being lifted? According to Bagster co-founder, Scott Rhodes, "It's an extremely strong woven design. We know it's going to be pierced, but because it's woven, it won't tear."
How is the Bagster Service More Eco-Friendly?
Unlike the aforementioned shopping bags, the Bagster bag is a single-use item because of importance of its structural soundness (you don't want 3,300 lb of trash falling from any height). However, "the Bagster bag itself is recyclable," Rhodes tells POV, "It's a virgin polypropylene fiber that can be reused as carpet-backing material, or as sound insulation in cars." So even though the bag itself isn't reusable, the materials are designed to find future usefulness somewhere downstream.
But perhaps what's more exciting about the Bagster bag's environmental impact is what the giant green bag offers on the service side of things. Specifically, Waste Management's ability to reduce the transportation emissions fuel consumption associated with dumpster pickup.
When it comes to ordinary metal dumpster service, a truck runs a regular route, picking up one dumpster at a time and then returns to the landfill. With Waste Management's new service, "We can pick up 12-15 full bags before we have to offload the contents, much more than we would be able to carry on a dedicated route," explains Rhodes.
In the waste collection business, route optimization is critical to efficiency. The ability to schedule pickups when needed will help Waste Management cut an estimated 75% of unnecessary driving to service dumpsters, according to Rhodes, boosting efficiency while reducing emissions.
To illustrate just how much more efficient this new type of service is, Rhodes explains "In Atlanta, we have one dedicated Bagster truck and it services the entire metro area.
What About Recycling?
Aside from the reduction in fuel consumption and emissions, one of the most exciting prospects for the Bagster service is the ability to change the way we collect trash on construction sites, movie sets, and other large-scale projects. Due to its size and versatility, the Bagster bag can help initiate what Rhodes refers to as "onsite source separation."
Imagine this, instead of a single rigid metal dumpster that collects all of the trash on a given worksite, there could be multiple Bagster bags in numerous locations, each one set up to collect its own type of waste. That's source separation and it's a crucial part of Waste Management's sustainability strategy; because it helps waste collection companies find downstream users that will recycle a particular type of material.
Consider gypsum board (aka "drywall") as an example. An eco-minded construction company could choose to separate all of its unusable gypsum remnants into a single Bagster bag, making it far easier to facilitate drywall recycling on a construction site. And due to the bag's light weight and portability, they can be placed on each floor of a project and craned down when full, rather that having to shuttle waste containers down to the ground level.
What Does the Future Hold for the Bagster Service?
Waste Management has launched a pilot project to seek ways to recycle the contents of the Bagster bags as efficiently as possible. According to Rhodes, "We're excited about the opportunity to recycle as much collected material as possible".
With versatile new tools like the Bagster bag at our disposal, the barriers to closing the loop on society's waste stream are quickly being eroded. The challenge, of course, is simply building public participation and finding downstream users for all of the recyclable materials – a process that's limited only by our creativity and ingenuity. Next time your community schedules a neighborhood cleanup or workday, maybe you'll be able to coordinate the garbage pickup.
Point of View
Point of View features the voices of scholars and professionals heavily involved in environmental protection and enterprise. It offers helpful tips and our authors' perspectives about the state of our environment and how we can all do our part to take care of the world around us and Think Green every day.
DISCLOSURE: Waste Management compensates individuals for contributions to the "Point of View" section of this website either through free products/services or monetary compensation. Please note that the views expressed in this column are the authors' and may not necessarily reflect the views of Waste Management.