© Tuzen | iStock
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter/Pinto & Associates.

There it looms in the middle of your account…the nightmare dumpster! A dirty, rusted metal box overflowing with eight cubic yards of rotting meat, chicken bones, fried fish, greasy fries, spilled soft drinks and secret sauce, all wrapped up with paper trash and stewing in the heat. As if that weren’t enough, surrounding the dumpster is the overflow of garbage bags and garbage that didn’t quite make it into the dumpster.

Worse yet, the next pickup isn’t for two days and the dumpster lid is missing, leaving garbage available overnight.

The two primary dumpster pests are flies and rats. Other dumpster pests include yellowjackets, ants, mice, pest birds and cockroaches.

House flies, blow flies, and drosophila (fruit) flies will take advantage of the decaying food and fermenting fluids in the dumpster. The flies will not only become pests around the dumpster, but will find their way into nearby buildings.

Rats will zero in on the high-quality food that is readily accessible each evening, and will take up residence nearby. Not only do the rats have access to the food trash on the ground, but they can get inside the dumpster itself through the perpetually open lid.

When technicians face nightmare dumpsters, pest management can be an exercise in futility until dumpster sanitation problems can be corrected. The best advice for technicians dealing with a dumpster management situation is the following:

  1. Don’t ignore the dumpster prob- lems.
  2. Be familiar with good dumpster management practices (see below).
  3. Report dumpster management prob- lems whenever you find them.

DUMPSTER GUIDELINES. Dumpsters represent a common focal point of pest problems in commercial accounts. Here are 12 recommendations for how to prevent pest issues from developing in and around dumpsters:

  • Dumpsters should be located at least 50 feet, and preferably more than 100 feet, from the building perimeter, and especially not near doors.
  • Dumpsters should be sited on a thick concrete pad that has foundation toes on the outside to keep rodents from burrowing under the pad. If not on a pad, small dumpsters should be on wheels to keep them up off the ground.

  • There should be no thick shrubs around dumpster enclosures. They might conceal the dumpster from view, but shrubs and dense groundcovers also hide rodent burrows, accumulate trash and make inspection difficult. Especially avoid thorny shrubs, such as barberry.
  • Make sure weeds or grass around a dumpster are trimmed close so rodent burrows can be seen.
  • See that staff places (not tosses) trash inside the dumpster, not around the dumpster. Some are reluctant to touch the “filthy” lid and use shortcuts.
  • Dumpster lids (rain guards) must be closed after trash is deposited. If there is routinely so much trash that the lid can’t close, more frequent pick-ups should be scheduled.
  • Maintenance staff should be present occasionally when the dumpster is emptied in order to clean the slab directly underneath.
  • Dumpsters should be washed out regularly, and whenever they smell strongly of rotting trash. Use high pressure and a degreasing solution.
  • Drain holes should be washed out regularly, and whenever they smell strongly of rotting trash. Use high pressure and a degreasing solution.
  • Drain holes should never be left open (except during cleaning). Plugs should be in place or the opening should be screened.
  • Dumpsters should not be damaged, leaking or rusted through, and the lids should close properly. Otherwise, they should be replaced. Trash service agreements should specify that dumpsters shall be replaced with new or reconditioned dumpsters on a regular basis.
  • Discuss with the client that they should not place loose food waste in the dumpster. Food waste should be put into heavy-duty plastic trash bags and tied off before being placed into dumpsters. Wet waste should be wrapped in newspaper before being bagged.
  • Dumpsters should be checked by staff twice daily, and any trash picked up that didn’t end up inside. Staff also should police the area immediately after the dumpster has been emptied or removed.

Now, let’s examine the inside component of trash management in commercial accounts — compactors and trash rooms. In apartment and other high-rise buildings, garbage from upper floors is often fed down a trash chute and into a compactor or a roll-away cart. The compactor sits in a ground floor room that too often doubles as a storage room and/or maintenance shop.

TRASH CHUTES & ROOMS. In a high-rise, each upper floor has a trash chute room, basically a closet that contains the opening to the trash chute (sometimes the room contains trash cans instead). Unfortunately, these rooms often become repositories for trash that was too large for the chute and for items that don’t even qualify as “trash.”

Trash chutes can be grease-laden, sometimes damaged, with poor seals at the basement ceiling above the compactor. Rats and mice can live in the block walls around the trash chute many floors up and come down at night to feed in and around the compactor. Be especially aware of old buildings that have converted old brick incinerator chutes into trash chutes. These work-around situations tend to have many crevices where roaches can hide.

COMPACTOR ROOMS. In older buildings, compactor rooms are often greasy and trash-strewn, and over the years have gained numerous holes for pipes, allowing pests free access in and out of the walls, floors and ceiling. A trash compactor can be the focus for cockroach, fly or rodent problems, feeding pests throughout the building. Conversely, if the trash areas are in good shape, pest levels in a building will reflect that.

CONTROL OPTIONS. Trash chutes can be treated with an insecticide dust. Pour the dust into the chute from the second or third level. The updraft in the chute will distribute a thin layer of dust. Chutes may need to be closed during cleaning and treatment.

Since food is readily available in trash areas, rodents are usually controlled by mass trapping, perhaps supplemented with tracking powder in trash room wall voids. After a trash room has been cleaned and degreased, apply an insecticide that is effective in conditions of grease, heat and moisture.

Use an injector tip to treat cracks and crevices in the room, and spot treat with a fan spray along wall, floor and ceiling junctions, and in and on the compactor and frame (but not the electrical mechanisms). Apply an insecticide dust in wall and ceiling voids. Consider adding an IGR for long-term cockroach control.

TRASH ROOM GUIDELINES. Here are 14 suggestions for effectively managing pest problems in compactor/trash rooms:

  • Reduce clutter in garbage, trash chute and compactor rooms. Get rid of stacked boxes, building materials, etc., to eliminate pest hiding places.
  • Trash rooms can be painted with a high-gloss white paint that will clearly show when and where cleaning is needed.
  • It’s a good idea to paint a bright white inspection aisle 24 inches wide along the walls in the garbage/compactor room. Nothing should be stored in this aisle space so that the perimeter area is (1) less attractive to rodents; (2) easy to inspect for droppings to detect new activity; and (3) accessible for placing rat traps and bait stations.
  • Seal or fill all holes, cracks, voids and delaminations in walls, floors and ceilings of trash chute rooms and the compactor room.
  • Caulk or seal openings entering trash rooms and around pipes, wires, cables and vents.
  • Grates should be installed on floor drains to prevent rats from moving into or out of drains.
  • Doors into garbage or compactor rooms (including overhead bay doors) should be kept closed and should seal tightly with door sweeps and/or thresholds at the bottom.
  • In cold regions, leave the trash room unheated in winter to discourage cockroaches.
  • Mobile carts or tote barrels used to haul and store trash should be made of tough, non-porous material and should have lids.
  • Don’t allow compactors or roll-off dumpsters to overflow.
  • Add wheels to compactors, if possible, so they can be moved for cleaning and inspection.
  • Trash storage areas and upper floor trash chute rooms should be policed daily to pick up spilled trash.
  • The trash storage area, as well as trash chutes and trash carts, should be steam-cleaned or enzyme-cleaned and degreased regularly.
  • Enforce a rule that all trash deposited in trash chutes must be bagged and tied off.

The authors are well-known industry consultants and owners of Pinto & Associates.