The sight of overfilled trash bins in uptown and downtown may be a thing of the past now that 10 brand-new “smart” refuse and recycling canisters have been installed by the city of Port Townsend …
The sight of overfilled trash bins in uptown and downtown may be a thing of the past now that 10 brand-new “smart” refuse and recycling canisters have been installed by the city of Port Townsend Public Works Department.
“We are excited about this solution downtown after struggling for several years with keeping trash cans emptied,” Greg Lanning, Public Works director, told The Leader Oct. 19. “Along with other recent improvements to Water Street, such as new sidewalks, trees, rain gardens and the plaza at Tyler Street, having a solution for trash and recycling enhances the downtown experience.”
The new Big Belly Solar Networked Compacting Receptacles were installed Aug. 8 and 9 after the Port Townsend City Council – during their regular meeting April 16 – voted to authorize City Manager David Timmons to negotiate and execute a supply and maintenance agreement with the Massachusetts-based waste collection company. About 20 traditional bins replaced by the new bins currently are in storage until the city determines where best they can be redeployed in order to increase the city’s overall capacity, Lanning said.
"Those old decorative cans that have a nice history to them. The lids were made by a local foundry."
The new canisters boast total waste containment, with no windblown litter or access for wild animals; increased capacity; no overflow or visible waste; automated real-time collection notifications for garbage truck drivers; operational analytics; and an attached bin for the recycling of accepted items, according to the Big Belly Solar website.
The Big Belly containers are leased by the city. The total cost to operate all 10 sites is $1,635 per month – including taxes – for a lease period of five years, according to Lanning. This amounts to $19,620 a year or about $98,000 over the course of the five-year contract.
The five-year contract is additional to the existing contract the city currently holds with D.M. Disposal Co., totaling about $1.8 million annually. The city contract with D.M. Disposal included the pick-up of trash from the cans that have been replaced by the Big Belly receptacles. That contract is rapidly approaching the expiration and will need to be renegotiated, according to Lanning.
Too much garbage
Before the installation of the new bins, there were about 60 city-owned trash cans placed in the downtown and uptown areas where the volume of foot traffic is heaviest, according to the April 16 Agenda Bill. During the busy tourist season – spanning from May through October – D.M. Disposal Co. empties these traditional trash receptacles twice a day, seven days a week as part of their franchise agreement with the city.
During the cool and wet offseason, the trucks make runs three times a week.
Over the past few years, this schedule has proved insufficient and the cans have overflowed with trash creating a litter nuisance, according to Timmons. In addition, it was problematic for the large garbage trucks to negotiate the busiest streets during the busiest times of the year.
The new bins provide a solution to this problem by needing to be picked up less often. This is because the Big Belly systems allow for a much larger capacity – as much as five times more than can be placed within traditional non-compacting refuse bins.
And, when the bins are full, onboard sensors will send out a real-time alert to the waste disposal company and the city.
“That way, the drivers know that they have to pick it up or they can go by,” Timmons said during the April 16 meeting.
The on-call procedure will greatly reduce the chance of an overflow and will require fewer trips, according to Timmons.
The sensors can track “how much waste we are collecting [and] how much recycling we are diverting,” Lanning added. “Those are the metrics. We wanted to pair those up with the regular schedule. Now, having said that, even though [the garbage trucks] may visit them regularly [they] may not empty them all regularly because they don’t need it as often as those others did.”
Doors on the canisters also are designed to prevent passersby from adding additional refuse if the containers already are full, Timmons said. That capability will prevent someone from dumping an entire bag of garbage and filling the container to capacity, as has been seen in traditional cans.
“They are designed to prevent somebody from stuffing trash, because the current problem we are finding now … is people are stuffing their domestic trash, their home trash and their business trash in the [traditional] containers,” Timmons said in April. “I am going to start with our new community resource officer … policing some of these containers and see if we can determine who is doing that. That is really what limits the capacity. Hopefully these will help begin to give us better control [and] better monitoring.”
Now that the cans have been installed, data collected from the onboard electronic sensors are providing telemetry that will be analyzed to see where tweaks can be made, Timmons said.
“What we will do is actually demonstrate and put them in areas and start to monitor the volume and move them around to the higher volume areas where more traffic is,” he said. “If this works, then through the vendor we can maybe start talking to some of the businesses … to supply these units to where we will actually reduce the number of pickups and the volume of dled by the local businesses.”
Some businesses have voiced concern about the change, Lanning said.
“If one of these went in on one particular corner, we could remove [traditional bins from] all four other corners because the idea is to attract [pedestrians] to the big bellies,” he said. “Businesses that are used to having the old can right outside in front of the business, have told us that they miss that old can. We are flexible on this. If we miss something, or need to tweak something down the line, we will certainly do that.”
The new canisters now provide 10 sites for recycling, up from two or three before installation, according to Lanning.
The recycling units accept plastic bottles and cans, but do not accept glass. The plastic and aluminum combination works best for the recycling center without adding several containers for each detritus stream.
Glass cannot be comingled in these units since it is considered a contaminant by the recycling center, according to Lanning.
However, individual businesses can recycle glass as part of the general city-wide trash and recycling program.
The cans also are solar powered, and as such do not leave a carbon footprint in their wake.
Additionally, the cans prevent fugitive bits of refuse from blowing away, reducing pollution in the downtown area and in surrounding waterways, according to Lanning.
The new canisters have been installed along Water Street at the Cotton Building, replacing one recycle station and one can; on the southeast corner of Adams, replacing four cans; at the southeast corner of Taylor, replacing a recycle station and four cans; at the Tyler Street Plaza, replacing five cans; at Polk, replacing two cans and at Filmore.
Additional cans have been placed at the Haller Fountain, replacing a recycle station and one can; at Monroe and Washington, replacing one can; and at the northwest and southeast corners of Aldrich’s.
For more information, visit www.cityofpt.us or call the Public WorksDepartment at (360)379-5096.