Silvia Cademartori • Special to the Montreal Gazette
“The compost bin is disgusting, there are maggots and I don’t like cleaning it because it’s gross.” — Vaudreuil-Dorion client
What’s the dirtiest job you keep putting off at home? Cleaning your garbage and compost bins are probably way up there. With the adoption of recycling and compost curbside pickup years ago, homes now have three waste bins: garbage, recycling and compost. Who’s cleaning these bins? It’s not always who you think. The use of standardized bins saw a rise in mobile residential waste-bin cleaning companies in Europe, where they have been a mainstay in some cities for more than 30 years. The industry has been around in the United States for more than a decade but has been slow to grow north of the border.
However, the West Island is catching up with Kirkland-based Curbside Clean, owned by Mike Homsy and Mel Vandersluis. Operating since March, the company already has 300 clients, more than 80 per cent of whom are monthly subscribers, Homsy said.
It’s a family business with Homsy and girlfriend, Vandersluis, running the business side while Homsy’s sister, Samantha Homsy, does the daily cleaning. She drives a pickup truck with a customized trailer that houses the cleaning system. “The water is heated to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows us to sanitize the bins. It’s high-pressure, high-temperature water,” Homsy explained. “The bins are then (automatically) lifted two at a time and turned upside down over 360-degree spinning heads. All that dirty water falls back into our trailer, and we take it to a water treatment facility as grey water.”
The cleaning system rids bins of germs, viruses and bacteria, according to Homsy. He also said it’s kinder to the environment than what he’s seen: “Washing bins with a cold-water hose and bleach and dumping that into the street, which goes into our sewer system.” The Curbside Clean process takes just a few minutes and includes a biodegradable deodorizing spray.
The trailer holds enough water to clean up to 250 bins a day. The cost ranges from $9 to $32 per bin based on the frequency and number of bins to be cleaned per household. Homsy said his clients are “everybody and anybody who is conscious of the environment and of handling germs … We go from small-income homes to big houses on the water.”
Anthony Metrakos of Vaudreuil-Dorion has been a client from the start. “I normally do it myself, but I procrastinate. The compost bin is disgusting, there are maggots and I don’t like cleaning it because it’s gross. This keeps me and my wife happy.”
While the business idea is not new, it was to Homsy, who also has a window-washing company. “My clients over the years have asked me to clean their bins. I learned a long time ago that it’s a very dirty job and I didn’t enjoy doing it … so I started looking into making it more efficient,” Homsy explained. He came across an online video from the U.K. that gave him the idea to start Curbside Clean.
The couple put out feelers on social media during their year-long quest to launch the business and attracted more than a few skeptics. “This was the dumbest idea” and “Who would pay for this?” are some comments they received, but they decided to roll ahead with their plan.
“Whereas others who thought of this before me didn’t follow through because they weren’t sure there would be a demand, I had the clientele who gave me the demand already,” Homsy said.
He and Vandersluis didn’t want their idea to go to waste.