Bear-proof dumpsters—reality or fantasy?

bear sniffing a dumpster

If you’re here for the magical answer to your scavenging bear problems, we’ve got some bad news for you: There is no such thing as bear-proof dumpsters.

The reason? Us. You. Your team.

We’re all human, and we make absent-minded mistakes from time to time. Like, occasionally leaving dumpster lids unsecured.

And just one time is all it takes.

Roaming bears will catch the heavenly scent of greasy pizza boxes and decomposing produce wafting in the breeze, and they’ll go in search of lunch. If they try to get at your waste and they’re not successful, they’ll often leave your dumpster alone and search for a bin tended to by a less meticulous human. But if the bear catches you on an off-day and is rewarded with a wonderful smorgasbord of rotting garbage? They’ll come back to visit you again and again and again. Even if your bins are locked in the future, they’ll remember that they got in that one time—and bears are nothing if not persistent.

So, sure, some waste equipment manufacturers and resellers will tout bear-proof dumpsters but if you ask Dave Nedland, he’ll tell you, “If you want your dumpster to be bear-proof, you have to make it people-proof.”

So, what can you do to stack the deck in your favor? We’ve got a few thoughts on the subject.

How to bear-proof dumpsters, kinda.

Add front-load dumpster lid locks

We really like the Seriou-US locks.

Mounted on your cans, these bars prevent bears from opening your dumpster lids. When flipped upside down by garbage trucks, however, the mechanisms inside disengage, allowing the bars to swing free, releasing the waste. When the cans are then returned to their upright position, the mechanisms reengage, once again securing the lids. 

They’re about as dummy-proof as they come.

Unfortunately, they only work on front-load dumpsters. And, they’re not a 100% error-proof solution. If a waste hauler starts cowboying your dumpsters, the arms can flip up underneath the lids, get stuck, and remain ajar when returned to the pavement.

On garbage pick-up day? Keep an eye on them.

Add rear-load container lock bars

Managing your waste with rear-load dumpsters?  A manual lid lock bar can be an effective option.

What is it exactly?

It’s a bar that slides across the front of the dumpster lid, securing the lid to the dumpster body with a padlock to prevent access. As a more user-friendly alternative, we also weld spring hooks to chains for some of our customers.

Reinforcing the human behaviors that keep bears away

When your employees are new and haven’t fully cemented all the processes related to their jobs—or they’re simply tired or distracted, it can be all too easy to leave a lid unlocked.

That’s why we suggest some cheap, simple reminders—like vinyl stickers and jingle bells that call their attention to the locks. Adding this step (and the reason!) to your process checklists can also help.

Going poly? Choose rotationally molded dumpsters

In the rotational molding process, plastic is laid down in thin, even layers. Because this process produces a more even application of the material than an injection molded container, the resulting product is stronger, more flexible, and more durable. 

While they’re not a complete solution by any stretch of the imagination, if a bear starts pulling at your locked lids, they’ll hold up much better than their injection-molded counterparts.

Consider steel lids for your steel dumpsters…maybe

We typically construct our steel containers with plastic lids. They’re easier to open and your team will be less likely to lose a finger if they drop a lid unexpectedly.

Still, some folks like the steel lids as they make dumpster waste more difficult for bears to access.

We don’t love them, though. Why?

If you try to keep the lids open while tossing the garbage in, half the time the lid will come crashing down right on top of the garbage bag. Now, you’ve got the bag halfway in the container and half, out. Do you punch it and hope the lid doesn’t come down on your hand? Lift it up again, and give it another slap—or bat it with a stick?

At the end of the day, you may need beefier dudes or to hit the gym.

Schedule more frequent waste pickups.

Do you run a business in the restaurant, grocery, or food manufacturing industry?

Reduce the temptation and schedule more frequent garbage pickups when bears are active. It’s the scent that attracts bears in the first place, and reducing odors can also help reduce unwanted pests.

You’re definitely not going to want to toss your donut shop leftovers into a bin and leave it cooking under a black plastic lid for two weeks. That’s simply an open invitation for every bear in the county to head to your Old Country Bear-Buffett.

Consider a self-contained compactor

Self-contained compactors completely secure your tempting food waste, eliminating the odors that attract bears in the first place—but you have to generate enough waste to offset the cost.

Producing 60 to 150 cubic yards of waste per week? Then a self-contained compactor can be a cost-effective solution for bear-proofing your garbage.

Bear-proofing: It’s worth the effort

At the end of the day, it’s worth making every effort to lock down your containers. Bears aren’t just a nuisance—if you or an employee are surprised by a hungry bear, that could create a dangerous situation.

Being diligent helps keep both bears and people safe.

Interested in learning more about our lid lock and lid bar dumpster options? Give us a shout.

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