Waste trucks don’t normally command much attention. However, Michigan-based Midwestern Sanitation is creating an environmental buzz with its uniquely decorated trucks that offer improvements in service and resident participation in waste and recycling programs.
Midwestern Sanitation, a refuse company based in Inkster, Michigan, currently has residential contracts with ten cities in its region, serving more than 30,000 homes and a number of both large and small commercial retailers. A growing company interested in customer service, Midwestern’s growth was limited as its sanitation trucks regularly demanded repairs. Company president Paul Ruthenberg knew that to increase efficiency and better serve its customers, Midwestern would need to make changes to its fleet by finding a new brand of rear-loading trucks.
In 2003, Ruthenberg began shopping for five new additions to his fleet that would offer increased reliability and durability. He eventually chose Sterling Trucks’ heavy-duty L-Line, buying five Sterling trucks with Cat(r) C12 engines and dedicated them to the City of Taylor, Michigan, a residential customer since 1980.
In conjunction with Midwestern Sanitation, Taylor city officials have developed advanced recycling and heavy waste disposal programs over the last ten years. Midwestern has a system for disposing of both standard recyclables as well as hazardous materials such as car batteries, refrigerants, and mercury. The city recently received a national achievement award for its use of city vehicles running on ozone-friendly natural gas, and has gained a reputation for a strong dedication to the environment.
“Promoting our recycling and environmental education programs is important to us, and we want to make sure that every citizen knows a way to contribute to their community,” says Jim Katona, executive director of public works for Taylor. “By working with Midwestern Sanitation, we want to show citizens that we aren’t just serving them or the city of Taylor, but we’re serving the environment.”
This desire is what inspired Taylor to collaborate with Midwestern to publicize these programs by decorating the fleet of new refuse trucks with advertisements detailing how residents can get involved. One truck was recently painted, with the rest soon-to-be painted as well. (See photo, next page)
“We don’t think of them as refuse trucks; we like to call them ‘ecological purveyors of the future,'” says Katona. “These trucks will help contribute to our cause by implementing, as well as advertising, our environmental and recycling programs.”
After the enhanced truck had been used for less than a month, Taylor officials were already receiving positive feedback from city residents.
“Normally, the only calls we get are from citizens with questions or problems,” Katona says. “Since the painted trucks have started making their rounds, we have been experiencing higher call volume from citizens inquiring about the sanitation programs and praising the new look of the truck.”
Noting the company’s success in Taylor, Ruthenberg says he plans on buying more Sterling trucks, and to expand the truck graphics program to other cities and towns. Ruthenberg sees this as better than simply advertising his company logo like other waste management firms.
“It’s a rolling billboard for the community,” says Ruthenberg, “not just for us.”
Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.