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Department of Sanitation

NYCHA To Pilot ‘Clean Curbs for All’ — With Hopes of Full Containerization of Trash

12:02 AM EDT on September 27, 2022

Above-ground waste receptacles in Barcelona. NYCHA may use giant trash containers like these. File photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

New York City's infamous 5 o'clock shadow may finally be getting its shave!

The New York City Housing Authority — the nation's largest, home to 400,000 New Yorkers — is set to launch a containerization pilot, "Clean Curbs for All," which could change the way it collects and stores waste from its 162,143 apartments.

The news, contained in a request for proposal NYCHA issued late last week, means that the city's largest landlord wants to begin using large, on-site waste containers that empty directly into garbage trucks. Were the pilot to be scaled up, the Department of Sanitation would need to modernize its fleet with mechanical lifting gear in order to hoist the receptacles. Both are longtime goals of activists who hope to get the mountains of leaky, stinking, rat-drawing garbage bags that clutter sidewalks on collection days out of the way of the city's long-suffering pedestrians.

"NYCHA believes that hoist-lifted surface containers, which are comprised of a sealed waste receptacle which empties directly into the collection truck and which residents could directly place bags of garbage into would significantly reduce the amount of curbside trash and recyclables, eliminate opportunities for pests to access the garbage, and significantly reduce the amount of time NYCHA staff must devote to moving trash among the Developments, freeing up time for other job functions," according to the RFP.

The housing authority "believes it could establish a significant demand for containerized curbside services in New York City and therefore incentivize other entities to make significant investment in specialized trucks and new procedures necessary to provide and service containers," the RFP added, citing NYCHA's huge size.

So are the days numbered for curbside trash?

New York has lagged other major cities across the globe in waste containerization and collection, owing to its antiquated collection methods which feature Sanitation lifting bags and bins manually. The Sanitation Department in recent months has launched a small-scale containerization pilot, Clean Curbs, that, while useful in the short term, isn't scalable in a metropolis the size of the city, critics say. The agency has set aside $5 million to study containerization on a "massive" scale, according recent request for proposal obtained by Streetsblog.

Clare Miflin, a founder of Center for Zero Waste Design, long has argued that larger bins would make trash pickup quicker and more space efficient while bettering labor condition for “New York’s Strongest,” who could still work two per truck (as they do now) without having to lift five tons of heavy bags per shift.

"Very happy to see this forward thinking RFP from NYCHA for hoist-lifted surface containers and the mechanical trucks to service them," she said. "Hoist-lifted containers are used in many cities worldwide and are space efficient and relatively easy to maintain. Through this pilot, NYCHA could really help lead the city towards a containerized waste future, with the benefits outlined in our Put Waste to Work advocacy campaign."

The "Clean Curbs for All" pilot gets NYCHA closer to its 2019 goal of ensuring that buildings and grounds are "visibly clean and free of pests by 2025" by containerizing waste in pest-proof containers. "Providing residents direct access to hoist-lifted surface containers and reducing the amount of garbage stored curbside will address" those commitments, the RFP states.

The 177-page document is soliciting proposals for a general consultant and for "truck and container leasing and/or distribution firms" and asks potential vendors to estimate costs.

"We look forward to working with our NYCHA colleagues in piloting the use of containers at NYCHA developments," a Sanitation Department spokesman said.

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