Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are Rollout Bins Right For Princeton?

If New York is the city that never sleeps, Princeton has become the town whose streets are never clean. The dumping of yardwaste in the streets is now year-round. Municipal fear of taxpayer outrage may be the reason that ordinances meant to control the dumping activity, and to bring Princeton in to compliance with state regulations, go unenforced.
There are places in America that have clean streets. I know because sometimes I jump on my horse and ride towards the horizon to see how other people live, and can say definitively that we can rescue ourselves from this self-imposed squalor.

Take San Francisco as an example. Once a week, three rollout bins are placed at the curb. Gray is for trash. Blue is for recyclables. Green is for a combination of foodwaste and yardwaste.

Because the yardwaste is containerized, collection is efficient and the streets remain clean. Of course, this neighborhood has fewer trees than Princeton does and thus less generation of leaves and brush. But there are many tree-packed municipalities that don't allow dumping of leaves on the street, and instead expect residents to compost most of them in the backyard and place the rest in rollout bins and yardwaste bags at the curb.

This sign shows what goes in the green bin: food-soiled paper, food, and yard trimmings. All of this gets composted outside of town. Princeton township began offering this service last year, and recently extended service to anyone in the borough willing to pay $20 a month. (More on this in another post.)

One of the benefits of rollout bins is that their contents are mechanically emptied into the trucks. Princeton's recyclables and the borough's trash are lifted manually into trucks, which puts workers at risk of back injury. The lack of rollout bins also means that residents must do heavy lifting to get their trash and recyclables to the curb.

Some trucks can actually grab the rollout bin at the curb and dump its contents without having a worker on the street.

When in the past I've recommended that Princeton shift over to rollout bins, the idea was reflexively rejected due to concerns about the cost of this sort of truck. Imagine my surprise when I saw one of these trucks collecting trash in Princeton township. Midco, one of the private haulers township residents can contract with, has obviously seen the cost savings in this approach.

Consolidation of Princeton township and borough into one entity offers an opportunity to reshape services. Rollout bins have worked elsewhere and are now being utilized by private haulers in the Princeton area. It's time the municipality look at ways to put them to use.

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