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Did You Know

By Jennifer | Oct 30, 2018


Did you know……..

Today we are stepping back in time to honor a man who gave us one of the most universal, yet unappreciated, inventions of the 20th century: the dumpster.

It’s quite difficult for the folks of the 21st century to imagine streets lined with clumps of festering garbage. Yet for a good portion of the 19th century, and even the early 20th century, side-stepping piles of debris on the way to work was part of city living.

Of course, cities eventually realized that dumping garbage was a pretty bad move for public health. That realization led to the first sanitation departments whose sole mission was to keep the streets clean and clear. Bus despite this huge advancement in waste management, the actual process of collecting garbage remained labor-intensive, requiring the work of several men and a horse-drawn cart.

Enter the Dempster Dumpster

George Roby Dempster, Inventor, Entrepreneur and one-time mayor Knoxville, TN has first-hand experience with the laborious process of hauling waste through his construction business, Dempster Brothers Inc. Applying his knowledge of heavy machinery, he was able to devise a more efficient way of collecting, transporting and disposing of debris: the dumpster.

When Dempster first put his creation to work in 1935, then trademarked as the “Dempster Dumpster” he had intended to use it solely for his company’s own construction projects. Yet as his competitors learned of his invention, the company was soon inundated with orders. They received so many orders, in fact, that his company abandoned the construction industry altogether and pulled all their resources into manufacturing the Dempster Dumpster.

What made the dumpster so disruptive? It reduced the amount of labor required to move debris by a whopping 75%. No longer did you need a team of sanitation workers, all you needed was a single person to pick up the dumpster and haul it away.

But the Dempster Dumpster was just the beginning of George’s quest to make the modern world just a bit neater.

In the 1950’s, his company introduced the “Dempster- Dumpmaster”, or what you and I know as the modern garbage truck. The Dumpmaster was the first commercially successful, front-loading garbage truck in the United States. It completely eliminated the need for the driver to get out of the truck, as well as the need to physicially haul the dumpster to a landfill. A single truck could now empty several dumpsters in between trips to the disposal point.

What to say the next time someone asks you, “what is a dumpster?”

You can tell them all about Dempster’s contributions to waste management and how they helped make clean, modern living possible for the rest of us. Without his interventions, we’d still be side-stepping piles of garbage on our way to the corner coffee shop.

When you go to the take the trash out tomorrow morning, be sure to acknowledge one of the great unsung inventors of the 20th century: George Roby Dempster.

By: Kevin Rossignol / Waste Industry News

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