Harlem To Get New 'European-Style' Trash Containers

March 12, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

HARLEM, NY — Harlem is once again on cutting edge of how the city deals with garbage.

Another new pilot program is coming to Hamilton Heights as New York City takes the next steps in its journey to emerge from the dark ages of mountain of plastic trash bags.

This time, the city is explicitly looking across the puddle and discovering that other cities have solved this problem decades ago by asking for contractors to supply “European-style” on-street garbage containers.

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On Friday, the city released a formal request for proposals to supply 600-1,500 of the new containers for the latest Harlem garbage pilot program, which is expected to begin in Spring 2025 in Community District 9 at an annual cost of $700,000.

Jessica Tisch, the city’s Sanitation commissioner, told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on his Friday radio show that the city has been spending the last year studying different strategies of the decades-old approach as the city’s sanitation practices finally enter the modern era.

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“We have the benefit of not being the first major city in the world to do this,” Tisch said over the radio. “In fact, we’re going to be one of the last. We have spent the past year studying what’s going on in Europe, what’s happening in South America and in Asia, and we’ve also looked at what hasn’t worked.”

This pilot will specifically target buildings with 31 units or more, where eventually these on-street containers will be required.

There are around 425 buildings of that size in the area covered by the new Harlem pilot, housing around 29,000 apartments.

Those largest buildings produce 60 percent of the city’s residential trash, officials said Friday.

Buildings with 10-31 units will be able to choose between these large, street containers or smaller, wheeled bins.

And starting this fall, buildings with 10 units or less will be required to use smaller wheeled bins only.

Once the program expands citywide, the request states, the city will seek to roll out up to 100,000 containers.

The lidded and lockable street containers will come in two sizes, with the larger ones topping out at 3,200 liters — or 28 large, filled trash bags, and the smaller ones at 2,500. They are required to be compatible with the new, automated side-loading Sanitation trucks unveiled last month.

Only building superintendents will have access to the containers, and, unlike in Europe, each building will have their own containers, which Tisch said will help prevent the bins from being overloaded.

So far, Tisch told Lehrer, the existing trash containerization pilots in West Harlem have shown positive results, with rat complaints down by nearly 70 percent over the prior year.

“We’ve heard from the school’s custodians that it’s making their jobs and their lives a lot easier because instead of having to store all the trash indoors, they can put it out whenever they want,” Tisch said. “I want to just say that that’s another major benefit of the containerization program for the larger buildings because instead of having to store that trash indoors all day or for two or three days, it can be stored in that fixed on-street container.”

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According to rat experts, combating on-street trash — the main source of food for rodents — is the only way to successfully manage rat populations, since their gestation periods are too quick for killing-based strategies, no matter how clever, to make any real impact.

Some New Yorkers, like one block in Prospect Heights, have already taken the initiative to containerize their own trash to fight the growing rodent hordes.

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