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What is a Dumpster?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A dumpster, or frontloader container, is a large bin built to hold waste until it can be transferred to a garbage truck and then moved on to a landfill or recycling facility. In some countries, the term “skip bin” is used to refer a dumpster. Dumpsters are ubiquitous in major cities, to help handle the large volume of waste generated by the big population, and they are often attached to restaurants, large office buildings, and apartment buildings. In general, dumpsters are dropped off and collected by a solid waste management company.

The origins of the dumpster lie in the 1930s, when the Dempster brothers started developing standardized garbage receptacles which could be paired with specialized waste collection trucks. They called the subsequent garbage collection system the “Dempster-Dumpster” system, but the “Dempster” was quickly dropped, and “Dumpster” became a household name. Dumpsters were picked up all over the world, because they were far more efficient than collecting waste in unevenly sized bins and tossing it into an assortment of trucks.

The basic dumpster is used as a catch all for any type of garbage. If the dumpster is attached to a building, individual tenants empty their trash cans into the master dumpster for the building, either by manually bringing the garbage down or dumping it into garbage chutes. The dumpster is picked up at set intervals by the garbage firm. A small dumpster will be emptied directly into a garbage truck, while a larger dumpster may be designed to be hauled onto the bed of a truck and taken directly to the landfill for emptying, with the firm leaving an empty dumpster in its place.

A dumpster can also be ordered for a special occasion, like remodeling a home. Contractors frequently request dumpsters because they know that the work they are doing will generate a lot of garbage. If a company is anticipating a major event, they may choose to add dumpsters to their waste management order for that week, to ensure that all of the garbage will be managed. Individual citizens can order dumpsters from a waste management company, but the cost is usually prohibitive, unless a group goes in on a dumpster together.

A dumpster is sometimes designated for a particular type of waste. Print shops and newspapers, for example, commonly have paper dumpsters which are used to collect paper for recycling. Some restaurants and grocery stores use food waste dumpsters. The food can be composted or sent to pig farms for disposal. Companies can also order green waste dumpsters for yard clippings, or designate a dumpster for metal, plastic, or glass recycling. The use of dumpsters for recycled material is a growing trend, thanks to the growing ubiquity of recycling.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon85603 — On May 20, 2010

Nice article. Dumpster rentals or roll off dumpster rentals can be quite affordable for personal use. Check it out online and see if a dumpster rental is the best option for you.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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