Home reno trend driving demand for dumpsters, Edmonton companies say

Several waste disposal services in the Edmonton area have reported surges in business — perhaps because more people renovating and cleaning their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Waste disposal businesses are hiring and buying more bins to expand operations

Sherwood Park business Direct Dumpsters rents garbage bins in the greater Edmonton area. (Cassie MacLean/Direct Dumpsters)

When restaurants and other businesses started shutting their doors in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Matt MacLean and his wife Cassie worried about how their own business would fare.

The couple runs a waste disposal company, Direct Dumpsters, just east of Sherwood Park. 

For a week, business remained normal. Then demand for the company's dumpsters shot way up.

"The phones went from three to four phone calls a day to 25 to 28," Matt said Monday in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

We ask a local company why waste removal businesses are booming during the pandemic. 6:18

The eight-year-old company experienced its best-ever sales month by far in May and has expanded twice, adding another truck and 12 bins to its fleet.

Direct Dumpsters is not the only waste removal business thriving during the pandemic.

Tom Leah, who owns City Disposal Containers Inc., said business has been busier than last year. Mike Handous, owner of Oil City Bins, said his company hired two more drivers to respond to increased demand for waste disposal services.

What's driving the trend?

Cassie MacLean attributes the rise in revenue at Direct Dumpsters to COVID-19 trapping people in their homes for weeks.

Some people are spending more time at home, noticing flaws and junk, while others who have lost work now have time to spend on home improvement.

"People were at home looking at those unfinished projects that they just didn't have time to accomplish while they were working full-time," Cassie MacLean said.

At the same time, places that normally take second-hand furniture and other large items closed down during the pandemic.

Many thrift stores and charity organizations stopped accepting donations, and the City of Edmonton temporarily closed several eco stations and the Reuse Centre.

Flooding due to recent heavy rain has also damaged basements and belongings.

"Typically, to remedy any sort of basement flood, you're also taking out a portion of your drywall," Cassie MacLean said.

All of those factors have created more mess people want to get rid of.

Not all waste disposal companies are enjoying an increase in business, however.

Keith Hayduk, operations manager of Quest Disposal and Recycling, said in an email the company has not experienced an increase in dumpster demand during the pandemic.

Business has been steady but revenue has gone down slightly for EWS Disposal, said operating manager Ali Issa. The company had to lower prices to be competitive, he said.

Staying safe while tossing trash

Whether demand has gone up or down, handling waste has become a riskier business in the last five months.

Like many other businesses, Direct Dumpsters now has a no-touch payment policy. 

Drivers wear gloves and wipe down dumpster handles with disinfecting wipes.

Though it's unclear if demand for dumpsters will keep growing, Matt MacLean said the pandemic has changed his business for the better. 

"This just kind of forced us to take a real close look at the safety of employees and the safety of consumers," he said.

About the Author

Madeleine Cummings is a digital associate producer who produces stories for CBC Edmonton's website and its afternoon radio show, Radio Active.