Smart cans on the byway: The county and the $6,000 garbage bins

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 6/23/21

MONTICELLO, NY — “Garbage cans,” said legislature chairman Rob Doherty to open the June 17 executive committee meeting. “Let’s discuss garbage cans.

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Smart cans on the byway: The county and the $6,000 garbage bins

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MONTICELLO, NY — “Garbage cans,” said legislature chairman Rob Doherty to open the June 17 executive committee meeting. “Let’s discuss garbage cans.”

Trash has been on the table—so to speak—for several weeks. Legislators wrestled with the problem of abandoned mattresses, lost tires and random sacks of household refuse. But now it’s summer in Sullivan County, and the problem is only growing.

Enter Upper Delaware Scenic Byway chair John Pizzolato, who has an idea: a joint project of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) and county government to add some unusual trash cans to the byway. He and Doherty have been working on it.

“After the county-wide cleanups,” Pizzolato said, “it was apparent that we needed more receptacles for trash.”

The ones he has in mind “do a couple of different things. They compact the garbage... they offer wireless internet for anyone within 200 feet of them.”

When full, he added later, the cans send out a signal to Waste Management, which would then empty them.

One proposed site would be in Lumberland, where the byway volunteers “cleaned up five mattresses, a bunch of strollers, microwaves, all kinds of garbage,” Pizzolato said. The closest transfer station isn’t open more than three days a week, he added. Another site would be the traffic circle under the Barryville/Shohola Bridge. He mentioned the Highland river access site, and the final site would be in Narrowsburg, at the Veterans Gazebo.

Not your ordinary garbage can

The bins cost $6,000 per unit, Pizzolato said, plus $1,200 a year for maintenance. (So, four units cost $24,000, plus annual maintenance). He said he’s started talking to businesses about placing ads on the receptacles. “I think it solves a lot of different situations,” including providing free WiFi access (within a 200-foot range). The Town of Highland already has two, funded with a grant from Sullivan Renaissance, Pizzolato said.

“The genesis of the concept was to protect our waterways” [from microplastics and other pollutants seeping into the Delaware from the trash], said Doherty. The cans “hold five to eight times the amount of trash that regular cans hold. They’re animal-protected.”

Others raised objections

“I realize a clean county is really important,” said Ira Steingart. “But I have an issue with where did the line change from local responsibility for keeping your town clean, to the county?” Couldn’t fundraisers be held? “I just don’t think this is the right way to do it.”

“The county has helped develop tourism infrastructure for a long time,” countered Alan Sorensen. Seed money was provided, and groups or towns took it from there. “I think we need to do this in partnership with the towns.” He suggested using room tax dollars.

The towns need to participate, Joe Perrello said, “and we should be secondary.” He suggested a grant program.

Debate went on. Use, well, basic cans? Wouldn’t a clean byway encourage more tourists?

“We would pick up trash [along the Byway],” said Luis Alvarez, referencing his days as a deputy. People, he said, would dump trash in the parking lot within sight of a trash can. He asked Pizzolato for details on where the money would come from.

Legislators asked about maintenance required.

They settled on a $12,000 grant from the room tax funds. It passed 6-3, with Alvarez, Perrello and Steingart opposed.

Public comment had input too

Ken Walter asked why the Highland bins, already funded, couldn’t serve as the pilot program. “Putting a garbage can out doesn’t change behavior,” he said.

He asked about power supply. BigBelly compacting trash cans, for example, use solar panels, but it was unclear whether these were BigBellys.

Walter asked who would construct the pad on which the can sits. Would the collection contract be bid out or just go to Waste Management? Was there a warranty in case of damage?

Commenters pointed out that staff had been laid off and the adult care center and Community Services needed help, but the county could spend $12,000 on garbage cans. Cat Scott asked whether the cans required cell service, which would affect where they were located. “We want to be a little more fiscally responsible than a $6,000 trash can.”

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