New Collapsible Trash Barrels to Be Piloted on East Brookline

Neighbors on East Brookline Street in the South End are readying themselves for a new era in trash collection.

That fundamental change will come in the form of a long-awaited pilot program with the City’s Public Works Department (PWD) to test collapsible trash containers – a revolution for residents in the downtown neighborhoods who often don’t have room to store bins and are forced to put bags on the curb. Those bags, however, are often invaded by rodents and trash scavengers prior to the garbage man’s visit.

That is what has necessitated the appetite to try something new, and advocates were upbeat about the program on Tuesday night during a question-and-answer session in the South End Library for the 20 neighbors enrolled in the pilot program.

“I moved here year ago from San Francisco,” said Sara Sabin, who is one of the participants. “I’ve been shocked by the bags on the street during trash days. I think the South End has a rat problem and this trash situation just adds to it. I complained about it for a year, and when I heard about this, I figured if I had the opportunity to try something better, I would do it. I am definitely participating and looking forward to seeing how it works…It looks easy and it seems like it will be easy, but we’ll have to see how it works.”

The City has provided two different kinds of canvas, collapsible bins to test, one from Unger and one from Toro. Both are very similar, but have some different features for collapsing.

Brian Coughlin of PWD said most of the downtown neighborhoods don’t have space for having a barrel, and finding a solution like a collapsible bin could eliminate a lot of problems with litter and rodents in those neighborhoods.

“The City is excited to see how this works,” he said. “It’s very difficult when we collect trash from the South End, Beacon Hill and Back Bay. Residents without a yard face difficulties because there’s nowhere to store a barrel. This could be the best thing going. It could change things. We’ll see.”

Coughlin said the City would evaluate the program in six to eight weeks, and they want to hear all of the experiences of the neighbors in using the new bins – good and bad.

“We want to hear all of the hiccups and successes and whether it’s working,” he said, noting that a final decision on whether or not to expand the program will be a collaborative effort between neighborhood desires, data from the pilot and City input.

South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox said the drive for collapsible bins started about four years ago when the rat problem was getting way out of hand.

“All of the trash professionals we talked to said the key was containerization,” he said. “The issue downtown is we don’t have containerization. We needed to find a solution to be able to have barrel containers, and also find a way to store those containers. This was the solution we came up with.”

One of the first adherents on East Brookline Street was Dan Rebello, who saw a post by Fox earlier this year after having a frustrating day with trash collection on a windy day.

Rebello said he will be handing out the new bins to neighbors on the street this weekend, with the first pickup coming on Tuesday morning.

Bins have to be brought inside and stored by dusk, Coughlin reminded the volunteers.

Residents in Beacon Hill will also pilot the collapsible bins this summer, too, on one of the hilly streets, but that street has not yet been chosen.

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