Urban Services of America wants you to bring it your tired, your weary and your cracked trash carts, and if you can't come to the company, it might be able to make a house call. The Chicago-based firm plans to expand its Polyweld business to include mobile tool and welding shops capable of doing on-site repairs to plastic carts, President Doug Ritter said.
The Polyweld process allows plastic to be welded back to full strength, unlike bonding in which the repair rates at 60-70 percent strength, Ritter said.
"We melt what we're welding at the same time we're injecting [plastic]," he said.
Urban Services fixes more than 75,000 carts annually, Ritter said.
"With this, we're trying to build a green, environmentally responsible business," said Ritter, who had no education or experience with plastics or waste management when he got into the business seven years ago with his partner.
"The largest contract and most noted impact on the environment is the contract we have with the city of Chicago," he said. "In 1995, it was more than 1 million carts strong. Along with the nature of the beast — the carts take a beating — the larger the system, the larger the failure rate. Not only is what we do saving a tremendous amount of landfill space, it's saving a tremendous amount of money. The typical replacement cost is $45-$50, and we are in the $20 range for repairs."
The Chicago plant handles most of the Midwest business, mending an average of 200 carts a day, and several service trucks make runs to places such as Milwaukee to collect carts so they can be repaired at the plant.
"Before, we used to repair the carts ourselves, and the issue there was that our crews were spending a lot of time repairing them when they could be delivering carts," said John Sullivan, Chicago's managing deputy commissioner of streets and sanitation.
The city gives residents a 96-gallon cart as part of its trash pickup service.
"We have a lot of animal damage from squirrels, and then you have holes in the containers that any rodents can get through," Sullivan said.
"With this technology, they actually cut out the part that has animal damage, cut out an identical piece of plastic, and Polyweld it. The cart then goes through refinishing and disinfecting."
Carts deemed beyond repair, such as those with large body cracks or ones that have been burned, can be cannibalized for replacement parts.
At Urban Services' facility in Southern California, mobile work trucks do repairs all around the state. "Our crew and truck will go to a customer once a month, set up and do repairs for the month," Ritter said. "We're not trying to have plants or facilities all over the country. We're working toward mobile welding shops."
The company also has a contract with a division of Waste Management to oversee general management of the containers.
"It's outsourced to us," Ritter said. "Waste Management picks up the garbage, and we're responsible for all other aspects. So if a container gets stolen, for example, the customer calls us and we take care of the problem."
On the Polyweld Web site, at www.polywelding.com, the company lets potential customers set their own specifications, then calculates their savings and shows how much waste they would divert from landfills if they used the cart repair system.