Bagster

Scott Rhodes, Director of the Organic Growth Group, Waste Management

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Credit: Tony Pettinato
CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Start with a bag. Make it big like a dumpster. Sell it at Home Depot.

And have the nation's largest waste-management company swing by your house to take it away.

This is the simple premise behind Bagster, Waste Management's "Dumpster in a Bag."

Bagster is a tough, woven plastic bag that unfolds to 8 feet by 4 feet by 30 inches tall, big and strong enough to hold up to 3,300 pounds of home-renovation debris and trash -- the right size for home renovations and clean-up projects.

Bagster (thebagster.com) sells for $29.95 at home-improvement and hardware stores as well as Amazon.com. When it's full, a consumer goes online or calls Waste Management to pay for and schedule a pickup for $79 to $159, depending on the area -- 50% to 70% less than a dumpster rental.

The Bagster idea came from a Minneapolis inventor who presented the concept to four franchisees of PODS, a service that provides big containers for storage and moving. The foursome bought Bagster in 2006 and raised $15 million to build the business. By 2009, Bagster was available in 14 states, said Scott Rhodes, one of Bagster's founders and a former investment banker. But to go fully national, he said, "We knew it was going to take a lot more capital to take advantage of the first-mover advantages we thought we had."

Enter Waste Management, which in 2009 bought Bagster and a similar venture in Canada. Waste Management, beginning in spring 2010, rolled out Bagster across the country and in most of Canada, supported by a cable TV, online and print campaign from WPP's G2, Chicago. "We've got a pretty Herculean effort to create awareness with consumers," said Mr. Rhodes, director of the Organic Growth Group at Waste Management. "The good news is once people use it, they love it."

It's not easy communicating the product's limitations. For example, Bagster needs to be placed near curbside so a truck can reach it; one customer thought the company would go to the basement to pick it up. On Amazon, Bagster gets rave reviews for concept, but mixed reviews for customer service.

Mr. Rhodes acknowledges awareness is still "very, very low." But there are great opportunities for its first consumer product. Waste Management is exploring other potential Bagster applications, different size bags and -- important for the company's green positioning -- ways to recycle contents and bags.

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