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Integrated Dumpsters/Dumpers Versus Portable Bin Tipper Units

To safely manage a municipal or commercial waste stream, you need central collection points, that is, dumpsters. As ergonomic operations improve across industries, many decision-makers also invest in equipment that protects staff and improves productivity at the dumpster lip, that is, Bin Tippers.

However, buyers have a choice between two general models to accomplish bin-emptying tasks. The first, of course, is the portable Bin Tipper. These heavy-duty units employ powerful hydraulics to effortlessly empty the heaviest of loads, and they use a unique lift-and-tip motion to improve stability as the load-weight shifts.

The second choice accomplishes the same goal, but through a fundamentally different design. Integrated dumpster/tipper units build the dumping tool right into the container itself. And while that might be attractive to some purchasers, we believe that Bin Tippers provide a greater return on investment throughout the course of ownership. It's much more affordable to maintain, repair, and eventually replace a simple steel dumpster than it is to buy an entirely new dumpster/tipper combo. Meanwhile, the Bin Tipper will continue providing the same reliable service, year after year. 

Industrial engineers point out that modular systems allow the replacement of one element at a time, sidestepping high replacement costs. Over the years, that can result in serious savings. After all, dumpsters may look indestructible, but they come with their own maintenance requirements, and eventually, they must all be replaced.

Damage to Dumpsters: More Frequent Fires

In 2016, people started throwing around the term "dumpster fire." While media figures used the term to refer to political spectacle, it turns out that 2016 was also a big year for literal dumpster fires.

Compared to the prior year, the National Fire Protection Association reports, there was a 5.5-percent growth in outdoor trash fires in 2016. That's 172,000 piles of burning trash, or 12.8 percent of all fires reported that year. While these figures demonstrate the growing risk of a burning dumpster in 2016, those are the cases that did not lead to property damage. To get a clear picture of how many dumpsters were destroyed that year, the latest for which we have data, we have to dig a little deeper. 

Unfortunately, the NFPA doesn't classify dumpster fires that do lead to property loss as a unique category. Instead, the association reports that non-vehicle-related outdoor fires that damage property increased by 15.8 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. That adds up to about $333 million in damages, more than 120 percent higher than the previous year's cost.

Some percentage of those fires certainly took place in dumpsters. Taken together, the numbers add up to suggest that dumpster fires saw a marked increase in the year that the pundits used the term so freely.

So how do these fires affect dumpsters themselves? As heavy-duty metal containers, these commercial waste collection sites can keep fires contained. They can also be damaged in the process. For businesses that invest in high-price automated dumpsters — such as those models that feature integrated tipping devices in service of ergonomics, productivity, or both — these dumpster fires create serious losses of value.

Rain, Rust, and Replacement Costs

In the absence of fire, rain water alone can cause serious damage to dumpsters. Water can pool in a full container, blending with refuse into a caustic sludge, and eventually eating away dumpster paint. Without a layer of protection, steel interiors quickly rust, springing holes that allow polluted stormwater to run from the dumpster into the water supply. Lids don't always provide the solution, either; they are among the most fragile components of a conventional dumpster.

Rain and fire aside, there's also the price and frequency of replacement necessary in municipal settings where garbage trucks regularly lift and drop these heavy steel boxes.

In 2001, the city of McMinnville, Tennessee, purchased a whole new refuse system for its 12,000 residents. While residential users wheel out 96-gallon roll-out carts, commercial properties were outfitted with steel dumpsters. The city also bought two Heil front-loaders to lift and empty the dumpsters. The total cost for all the new equipment, including the dumpsters, ran to about $600,000 — or around $836,000 in 2017 dollars.

Even in this relatively small market, waste handling carries a hefty price tag. That cost only intensifies when you consider the maintenance, repair, and replacement of every dumpster in the system.

When to Replace Commercial and Municipal Dumpsters

According to a classic study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, municipalities should consider the following factors to determine when it's time to replace dumpsters:

  • Depreciation -
    Dumpsters aren't known for appreciating in value over time. This actually extends their lifespans, according to the EPA's analysis; depreciation costs get lower the longer you keep a piece of equipment.
  • Investment -
    The price of buying new dumpsters also argues for holding onto existing equipment for as long as possible. But when dumpsters are bent, broken, and burnt, the costs can quickly shift the calculation in favor of replacements.
  • Maintenance/Repair Costs -
    At some point, repairing an old, dented dumpster is no longer worth the financial cost. And the damage can add up quicker than you might think. Collisions and the banging motion of emptying into trucks can all reduce a steel dumpster's life expectancy to far below the EPA's estimate of 10 years.

    Typically, the EPA found, owners can expect to pay 100 percent of the initial purchase price in maintenance for a metal dumpster bin over the course of its useful life. For roll-offs and lugger boxes, maintenance costs are about half that, as these types of dumpsters are usually made of thicker, more rugged steel.
  • Downtime -
    The dumpster that's in the repair shop isn't out on the street serving its function. That can put your entire waste stream on hold, and the EPA recommends considering the lost productivity an operating expense.
  • Obsolescence -
    As companies innovate with new equipment, older models pass out of usage. This is particularly relevant to the argument for freestanding Bin Tippers over integrated dumpster/tipper combos. When the tipper is built into the dumpster, users are limited to a single type of bin. What happens in the future if the company replaces trash bins with a new style?

    With a portable Bin Tipper, you can easily replace the cradle to function with virtually any type of container. Even better, you can order the Bin Tipper complete with a steel bucket cradle and an adjustable hoop retainer. This design accommodates a wide range of receptacles without requiring modification.

Bin Tippers are Necessary for Safe Handling of Commercial Waste Containers

One thing is clear: Employers should provide staff with some manner of emptying trash bins into dumpsters safely. It's clear that emptying bins manually is unsafe for two reasons: First, there are the ergonomic risks associated with material handling; Secondly, accidents involving proximity to dumpsters are alarmingly common. In 2017, OSHA tracked nine of such injuries — three of which ended in tragic loss of life.

These data points clarify the material handling dangers of manually emptying trash bins:

  • According to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the most common cause of disabling injury was "overexertion involving outside sources" — which certainly includes lifting an overly heavy trash can to empty it into a dumpster.
  • The WSI reports that this cause of injury made up 23 percent of the total reported injuries that year, with an estimated total cost to businesses of $13.79 billion.
  • Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, while injuries in manufacturing, trade, and construction declined in 2016, the leading types of injuries associated with missed-work days in manufacturing were sprains, strains, and tears. These are precisely the types of injuries associated with lifting heavy loads while twisting the body, as in the task of manually emptying trash bins into dumpsters.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there's "strong evidence" of a link between lifting loads and forceful movement and back injuries. There's also evidence that awkward postures and manual labor have a causal relationship with back injuries. 
  • Trash collecting remains one of the five most dangerous jobs in the United States. Proximity to dumpsters likely contributes to workplace hazards.

Given this bulk of evidence, it's clear that workers do need some sort of ergonomic lifting/tipping equipment to protect them during bin-emptying tasks. The only question that remains is what type of equipment that should be. Should your business choose an integrated dumpster/tipper combo? Or would a freestanding, portable Bin Tipper better suit your needs?

For long-term usage, portable Bin Tippers provide better versatility than combined units. Bin Tippers can be stored indoors or out, and you can easily move them out of the way of trucks and other dumpster-bound traffic. Most importantly, if your dumpster rusts out, loses structural integrity over time, or simply burns to a crisp, you'll still have your Bin Tipper for the replacement unit.

Choose an all-in-one tipper/dumpster combo and you'll eventually have to replace the entire product — at a much greater cost. The fact is, portable Bin Tippers provide the best available combination of reliability, versatility, and efficiency for industrial emptying tasks.  


"2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index." LibertyMutualGroup. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Jul. 2017. PDF. 20 Dec. 2017.

"Accident Search Results, Keyword: Dumpster." OSHA. U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.

Bernard, Bruce. "Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors." CDC. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jul. 1997. PDF. 20 Dec. 2017.

"Dumpster Management." NASA. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Mar. 2017. PDF. 20 Dec. 2017. 

"Handbook for Initiating or Improving Commercial Refuse Collection." EPA. National Service Center for Environmental Publications, 1975. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.

Hanes, Hylton. "Fire Loss in the United States During 2016." NFPA. National Fire Protection Association Journal, Oct. 2017. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.

O'Connell, Kim. "Sorting out solid waste budgets." AmericanCity&County. Penton, 1 May 2003. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.

Perlman, Merrill. "Dog whistle, dumpster fire." CJR. Columbia Journalism Review, 25 Jul. 2016. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.

Ward, Marguerite. "The 10 most dangerous jobs for men." CNBC. 4 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.