Tips & Techniques

Properly Sizing Dumpster for the Disaster
renting a dumpster for natural disaster cleanup

Disasters and dumpsters seem like they would go together in the Chicago area where severe weather is always a concern. If you find yourself facing a large-scale cleanup after any kind of disaster scenario, it can be helpful to know how to choose the right container for your situation. Brackenbox is happy to offer you some smart tips for selecting a dumpster size that will meet your disaster cleanup needs.

Why use a dumpster?

Why choose a dumpster for disaster cleanup? There are numerous reasons, not the least of which is saving time. Hauling and disposing of waste can be a complex project that adds a significant amount of time to any cleanup situation. The hours spent doing this type of work is time you aren’t spending on the rebuilds or on getting your business up and running again. Dumpsters provide for a quick pick-up at your convenience once the container is filled and you don’t have to worry about where to go to get rid of all the waste.

Another reason dumpsters make sense is safety. Disasters leave a mess in their wake, and the area is often filled with hazardous materials such as broken glass, sharp pieces of metal, and other dangerous items. Getting all of these things cleaned up not only makes for a safer job site, but it also looks much better, as well. Your neighbors will appreciate the fact that your property doesn’t look like an eyesore, and your customers won’t have to navigate through the debris to get to your door.

Divide and conquer

If you find yourself facing a cleanup after some kind of disaster situation, it’s a good idea to divide up the piles of waste so you have a clearer picture of what you are looking at in terms of disposal. For example, a high windstorm may have downed many branches, or even some smaller trees on your property. You won’t want to waste valuable dumpster space on these items if you can have them picked up by your landscaping team for a small fee, or if the city will collect them with the usual yard waste pickup.

Another consideration is recycling. If you have debris that can be recycled rather than thrown in a dumpster, this can be a cost saver, as well. Although it may seem like this adds time to the cleanup project, taking the time to make sure you aren’t paying for material cleanup that you don’t have to makes good sense. Recycle what you can and toss the rest.

Once you have things sorted, you’ll have a much better idea of how much material you’re dealing with for the cleanup. This will make selecting a dumpster size both an easier and a more accurate process. When everything is piled together, it can be very difficult to get a good estimate.

Choosing a container size

Roll off containers are probably the best solution for disaster debris cleanup as they can be dropped off, filled, and then removed by the company that is renting it out. Understanding how much waste a dumpster will hold can be tricky, but here are a few guidelines that will help you out.

Understanding cubic yards

Dumpsters hold cubic yards. This means a 10 yard dumpster will hold 10 cubic yards of waste. To visualize how much one cubic yard is, imagine a box that is 3 feet high, 3 feet long, and 3 feet wide. A 10 yard dumpster would hold approximately 10 of those, a 20 yard dumpster would hold about 20 of them, and so on.

Consider the materials

One thing to keep in mind is that, in a dumpster, not everything will lay flat. Be sure to consider the size and shapes of the materials you need to get rid of, and how these items will sit once inside the container. Large, awkward items can reduce the interior space of a dumpster significantly. You might want to take the time to break down any materials that will take up space in a way that prevents other items from sitting inside the dumpster easily.

Go up a size

Once you get an idea of the size dumpster you’ll need, it can be smart to go up a size just to be on the safe side. The fact that things don’t always fit seamlessly can be an issue and you don’t want to find you have a pile left over that you could have disposed of if you had just gone a little bigger in the first place. Plus, most companies will not allow overfilling of dumpsters, so you can’t just pile debris on top once the container is full. The team at Brackenbox will be glad to help you find an approximate size if you need a bit of help. Just give us a call.

Contact us for help sizing dumpsters!

At Brackenbox, we are committed to offering dumpsters and recycling services at competitive prices while striving to exceed your expectations. If you are unsure about the type of dumpster you need, please feel free to get in touch with us so we may assist you. We have a wide range of sizes and are happy to provide you with our expert advice.

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2300 W. 167th Street Markham, IL 60428

yard waste items for placement in dumpsters

Yard Waste

Here are some things you should know about disposing yard waste:

  • Under Illinois Law, it is illegal to put yard waste in your weekly garbage can, so a rented waste container is the only option for most homeowners.
  • Yard waste includes organic materials like grass, leaves, dead plants, and branches. It does not include dirt, rocks, tree stumps, sod, and food scraps.
  • If you are attempting to dispose of excavated soil, you will need to submit a form LPC-662 to the Illinois Dept of Environmental Protection.
  • And if soil is your yard waste, please order a 10 yard dumpster.
Seasonal items for dumpsters

Seasonal & Remodeling

Here are some things you should know about disposing seasonal items:

  • Christmas trees and wreaths are fine, but please be certain to remove the lights.
  • Please see our details on yard waste for brush and leaves.
  • Old snow and other tires are subject to a collect fee.

Here are some things you should know about disposing remolding debris:

  • Most fixtures, removed during a renovation or remodeling project are accepted in a waste container; but please review our page on appliances before throwing it all together.
  • Light fixtures and other such items are acceptable, but please do not dispose of any bulbs at the same time. Also be sure to remove any batteries that may be in some items .
  • Kitchen cabinetry, doors, wallboard, trim and other demolition debris is completely acceptable as well.
Hazardous items for dumpsters

Hazardous Waste

Here are some things you should know about disposing hazardous items:

  • Motor oil, gasoline, heating and diesel fuels are all BANNED disposal items.
  • Lithium batteries are considered hazardous and are banned from waste containers.
  • Spent car batteries, which contain lead and harmful acids are hazardous and banned from waste containers.
  • Asbestos waste is hazardous and is banned from disposal in a waste container.
  • Propane tanks are considered hazardous and are banned from disposal in a waste container.
  • Antifreeze of any type contains glycols that considered hazardous and are banned from disposal in a waste container.
  • Pesticides and pool chemicals, especially chlorination tablets are hazardous and banned from disposal in a waste container.
  • Pressurized fire extinguishers and aerosol cans of all types are hazardous and are banned from disposal in a waste container.
furniture items for dumpster rentals


Here are some things you should know about old disposed bulk furnishings:

  • Bulk furnishings are acceptable in a rented waste container
  • Mattresses; however, are subject to a State-mandated $10 Fee.
  • Please remember that these items are called 'BULK' because they are BULKY and may take up valuable space in your container. If the items are still in good, serviceable condition, consider reaching out to organizations like Goodwill or The Salvation Army that may have just the use or place to rehome such items.
electronic items for placement in dumpsters


Here are some things you should know about electronics:

  • Illinois has an extremely strict E Waste Ban; hence, there are a number of items we are unable to accept in our dumpster units. These include: Televisions, Computer Consoles, Video players of all types; Cellphones, Smartphones, Gaming Consoles & Stereo Equipment.
  • Many such items are subject to recycling and any electronics store may be able to assist in such matters. .
  • Lithium batteries (rechargeable) and Fluorescent Light Bulbs are readily recyclable at most home centers and may not be placed in a rented waste container.
  • Any of these banned electronic items will be rejected if found in a rented container.
appliance items for placement in dumpsters


Here are some things you should know about appliances:

  • Dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, washers and driers are allowed in a dumpster; however, the doors MUST be removed ahead of disposal. If this is not done, we reserve the right to reject the item(s) or charge a fee for door removal. This in accordance with State Law.
  • Water heaters may be placed in your dumpster unit; but please ensure that it has first been thoroughly drained.
  • By State Law, microwaves must be recycled, which begins with returning them to the appliance store.
  • Should you have any further questions, please call us at 708.339.4100.
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Are You a Contractor, Looking for Additional Services?

Then, if you are new to Brackenbox, please be sure to drop us a line at...

Dump & Return -

Need us to come, grab your container, empty it and return it for refilling? We can do that!

Attentive Driver -

(Live-Load)- Need our driver to stay on-site while you fill your container? We can do that!

Container Liner -

(10 Yard Containers Only) - Need us to transport wet concrete or other saturated materials? We can install a liner into our 10 Yard Containers.

Relocation Service -

Need us to move your container from one area of your jobsite to another? We can do that!

Switch-Out Service -

Need us to bring an empty container when we come to pick-up your full unit? We can do that!

Wood Driveway Protection -

Need us to bring a selection of material to place under your container to protect your driveway? We can do that!

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What Materials Are Prohibited?

For a more complete listing, visit this page...

  • Aerosol cans
  • All liquids
  • Animals
  • Antifreeze
  • Appliances
  • Asbestos
  • Barrels
  • Batteries
  • Chemical products
  • Computers
  • Contaminated oils (mixed with solvents, gasoline, etc.)
  • Dirt
  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Hazardous waste
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Industrial waste
  • Lubricating/hydraulic oil
  • Medical Waste
  • Microwaves
  • Monitors
  • Motor oil
  • Oil filters
  • Other flammable liquids
  • Paint (except dried latex paint cans, no liquids)
  • Petroleum-contaminated soil/lead paint chips
  • Propane tanks
  • Radioactive material
  • Railroad ties
  • Solvents
  • Televisions
  • Tires
  • Transmission oil
  • Keep in mind that larger dumpsters (30+ Yard Containers) may also prohibit additional materials, such as:
  • Concrete
  • Bricks
  • Demolition material