SHADY HILLS — Larry Santangelo and Johnny Lucenti put their waste container near the road so passers-by can admire it.
That's because it's not quite like any other can.
The two owners of hauling company Camport Waste Systems have built what they believe is the first front-load container with two separated, lockable compartments: one for trash and one for recyclables.
They call it "the Splitter."
The two men have high hopes for their invention, which they think could escalate the amount of recycling that businesses and apartment complexes do.
"Inventing this is a big thing for us," said Santangelo, 48. "We actually believe in our minds that we've changed the world of garbage."
Pasco County officials say the pair may be ahead of themselves.
"They have a pretty little box, and they probably have a market out there," said recycling coordinator Jennifer Seney, "but they don't have all the players yet."
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Pasco has an every-other-week curbside recycling program for residents, who put their glass, plastics and metal cans into one blue bag. But there is no equivalent "blue bag" system for commercial accounts, which include businesses and apartment and condominium complexes.
Haulers don't have an efficient way to collect recyclables from businesses, the two men say. That's because the rear-loading trucks — in which a worker jumps out and pitches the blue bags into the back — make no sense for commercial customers.
So Santangelo and Lucenti, 63, designed their split container so that front-loading trucks could pick it up with their forks and dump it over the top, just as they do to pick up typical trash containers at businesses. No need for anybody to leave the truck.
Here is how it would work: On trash pick-up day, haulers put a wedge — also built by the pair — on the left side of the truck's fork. That wedge locks down the recyclables side, so that only the trash dumps out.
On recyclable pickup day, the wedge goes on the right side of the truck's fork and locks the trash side so that only the recyclables fall out.
The partners, whose wives are sisters, are attending a waste industry convention in Las Vegas later this year. Their product has been featured in two industry publications.
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But the potential success of their invention remains to be seen.
Under their plan, they would sell the split containers to haulers, who would lease them to their customers. The splitter is more expensive; the smallest size would cost around $835, compared to $600 for the same-size all trash container.
But haulers won't latch onto the product, they said, unless customers — and enough of them — demand it.
And the biggest motivator for customers? Saving money.
"There are a lot of people who care about recycling, but it all boils down to money," said Santangelo.
How would they make it worth the customers' time? That's where the tricky part comes in. The partners want the county to charge businesses less in solid waste assessments for using the split containers.
Those solid waste assessments are calculated based on either the size and type of the business, or the hauler's records on how much trash is taken from the business.
So, for instance, an office complex that used 8-yard containers (they hold 8 cubic yards of trash) could instead use Camport's product, which holds less trash — 6 yards — but dedicates the rest of the space to recyclables.
When the haulers write their reports to the county, Santangelo says, they would show that office complex used less trash — and thus owe less money to the county.
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But Seney, the county recycling coordinator, said it isn't that easy. The county has no methodology to calculate assessments based on split containers, she said, and no way to audit it.
"There needs to be a way to check it," said Seney, who added that the Camport owners should write up a proposal. "It's not just a box that can be dropped on the streets starting tomorrow."
Bob Sigmond, the county utilities' fiscal and business services director, called the box itself a good idea but saw at least one other potential problem: breakage.
When the trucks drop the recyclables, he said, "those glass bottles are going to hit the bottom and break." That means they can't be recycled.
Santangelo acknowledged he's going to have a lot of work to do to persuade the county, which he says is torn between wanting to increase recycling but not wanting to lose income on the solid waste side.
"They never expected this," he said.
At least one of Camport's competitors sees some potential. John Batista, district manager for Waste Services, the biggest hauler in Pasco, said he thinks the pair may want to focus first on businesses that just want to recycle cardboard, which some haulers already pick up.
He said hotels, for instance, don't have much room for a cardboard bin and a trash bin in their parking lots. If customers could save space by having just one bin, they might be interested enough to lobby their haulers.
"It's definitely neat," Batista said about the product. "It's thinking outside the box."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.