The idea for CanShed was born from Google Earth images, but founder Mark Rushton is hoping for a boost from the many municipalities, including Boulder, that are implementing requirements that trash be secured in wildlife-resistant containers.
Rushton, a south Boulder resident with an entrepreneurial background and an inventor's mindset, would often notice unsightly trash carts at otherwise lovely properties when he was perusing Google's satellite images of neighborhoods.
"We've littered our landscape with carts," he said.
He started out wanting to create a beautiful structure of wood and metal to store trash carts. When Boulder started talking about requiring bear-resistant trash containers after Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife killed four bears in town last year, Rushton modified his design to make it stronger and trickier for bears to get into.
In May, Rushton sent CanShed to the product testing center at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana, where containers have to withstand an hour of assault from grizzly bears to be certified as bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
Rushton wanted his enclosure to be certified even though Boulder's ordinance doesn't require that step for enclosures.
At the testing site, grizzly bears rocked it and pushed it and climbed on it and could not get in.
"Of course, when one has something on the line — a product test with simple 'pass or fail' — there are moments when the heart is in your throat," Rushton said in an email after the test. "In the end, CanShed passed with flying colors."
CanShed isn't yet in the mass production stage, but Rushton plans to make them available for sale at McGuckin Hardware this summer.
CanShed comes in several widths to accommodate two or three trash carts of 32-, 64- or 96-gallon size. The three, 32-gallon size will cost $599.
Rushton hopes to eventually make CanShed enclosures on a large scale in Boulder for sale throughout the country.
Economically competitive alternative
Boulder's ordinance requires that all homeowners west of Broadway keep their trash in a secure enclosure or a bear-resistant trash cart.
Enforcement will start this summer with homes with alley trash service, as most bear activity occurs in alleys and homeowners with alley service are much more likely to keep trash in the alley even in between trash days.
The ordinance gives the city manager the authority to expand the area in which bear-resistant cans are required if bear activity shifts to other parts of the city.
Rushton isn't the only person seeing an opportunity in the new ordinance. Boulder doesn't have a trash service franchise, so even though most residents use Western Disposal, they have a choice of any hauler or even hauling their own trash.
One Way Disposal, a local hauler that mostly serves mountain communities, is stepping up its marketing in Boulder. Because the hauler doesn't use any automated equipment, it can offer a service in which haulers retrieve cans from a secure area such as a garage or shed, avoiding the need for a more expensive bear-resistant cart.
Because the commercially available bear-resistant carts can cost more than $200, depending on the size, Rushton sees CanShed as an economically competitive alternative.
One Way is also offering bear-resistant cans on a rent-to-own basis to its customers.
Rushton said CanShed would work well for customers of One Way, and it should work well for Western customers with alley pick-up.
Western uses automated trash trucks for curbside trash pick-up, so those trash carts would have to be removed from the enclosure by the homeowner and would still need to be of a bear-resistant design that works with Western's equipment.
Western Disposal has designed a retrofit to make its existing carts bear-resistant, rather than replace all the carts.
However, the company had struggled to get its retrofit certified.
'What is the size of the bear?'
Western Vice President Bryce Isaacson on Friday expressed some frustration with the process.
"It's somewhat subjective," he said. "What bear do you get? How interested is it? What is the size of the bear? It's not a scientific process."
If a bear loses interest in a cart, it has to be retested to subject it to an hour of assault.
Isaacson also noted that the bears at the center are much stronger grizzlies, not the smaller black bears that frequent Boulder.
Western Disposal got permission from the city to move forward with its retrofit based on the lid design on the 64-gallon cart passing and Western's carts having the same body as the Otto BearSaver, another certified bear-resistant cart.
And on Saturday, two different styles of 32-gallon cart passed the bear testing in Montana.
Western plans to continue with the certification process for its 96-gallon cart at the same time.
Isaacson said Western will send letters to all its customers in late June to coordinate the retrofit.
Western won't raise rates to cover the additional cost until 2015, Isaacson said. The company wants to see how the replacement goes and how the use of bear-resistant carts affects productivity along its routes before setting new rates.
City officials have said they will coordinate enforcement efforts with the roll-out, and they won't write tickets until homeowners have had ample opportunity to replace their carts.
Rushton hopes that in the interim, some homeowners will consider the CanShed.
"I think people don't realize they have a choice," he said. "With the new requirements, it's going to be top of mind now. With the enclosure, it takes away the what-ifs, and it adds an aesthetic value."