Soggy diapers. Rotten banana peels. Week-old shrimp. And that brown liquid that collects in a trash can and cements wayward wrappers, coffee filters and paper scraps to the bottom like a disgusting papier-mâché project.
With 17 combined years working in the waste industry, Eric Viele and his brother-in-law Todd Weathers had regularly experienced things that were unpleasant and foul.
But it wasn’t until they were on their way to a Hall and Oates concert in San Antonio last summer that they were struck with inspiration: They should create a company to clean those nasty trash cans.
They knew they couldn’t let their good idea go to, er, waste. So they, along with neighbor and partner Scott Wehmeyer, began researching cleaning trucks and purchased one last fall. In January, Clean Carts opened for business in the Austin area.
Here’s how it works: A customer leaves empty cans in front of the house, ideally the day after their trash has been picked up. Clean Carts power washes the outside of the cans, then hoists them up over the truck, where they are sanitized using a powerful stream of 180-degree water from the truck’s water tank. The cans are returned to the ground steaming. All told, the process takes about 5 minutes; all the water used to clean the trash cans stays in the truck’s holding tank instead of running into the street.
“There are no chemicals whatsoever. Just hot water and high pressure,” Weathers said. “We will spend extra time, especially on initial cleanings. Sometimes we have to get in there with a scraper.”
“Some of them,” added Viele as he sprayed a small mist of organic lemon scent into a can with the focus of a perfume tester at the mall, “are funky.”
So what’s the worst can they’ve ever seen?
“The maggots,” Viele says, cringing as he recalls it. “It was a food organics container, so they’re dumping all their food into the cart. When you were walking to the cart it looked like it was vibrating and there were just millions of maggots in it. To me, that was the grossest one.”
Viele, who has also had a traumatic encounter with rotten eggnog, said the hardest thing to clean is paint, which, he and Weathers add, should never be disposed of in a trash can in the first place.
So, yes, needless to say, it’s a dirty job.
But when they look at their big blue-and-magenta truck, which is nicknamed Mr. Pink and emblazoned with bubbles and the words “Sanitize. Deodorize. Disinfect,” they see their dreams coming true.
Eventually they’d like to have a fleet of trucks and a packed daily roster. Maybe they’ll even pass the business on to their kids — if their kids want it, that is.
One customer who has embraced the company is Meg Cashman Brown, a Circle C resident who has used Clean Carts twice on her trash cans and also used their power washing service.
“You don’t have to do anything, you just leave your carts out. They put them back for you,” Cashman Brown said. “It’s nice not to have trashy trash cans, especially if you need to keep in them in garage. And it’s a local business. I always want to support local.”
Clean Carts offers trash can cleaning and power washing in the greater Austin area and the outskirts. Options include one-time, monthly, every other month and quarterly. A one-time visit is $40 plus tax for both carts; prices drop from there for return and regular customers. 512-739-4943, cleancartstx.com