NYC seeks ‘European-style’ trash containers to keep streets clean and rats at bay

New York City is finally taking steps to do what other cities around the world have done for decades: put out trash in large containers.

Now all that’s needed are containers to get the job done.

The city sanitation department on Friday issued a request for proposals seeking suppliers of “European-style” on-street trash containers for residential containerization in Manhattan Community District 9, which comprises West Harlem. The containers are expected to be rolled out across the district in spring 2025, followed by “full citywide expansion” after community outreach and an environmental review, the department said.

Sanitation officials are looking to procure containers that could each hold about 28 large trash bags and that measure about four cubic yards. The city’s fleet of automated side-loading trucks would be able to pick up the containers, which will be evaluated based on their “aesthetics, durability, ease of cleaning, price and other factors,” according to officials. The city unveiled its first such truck last month.

The solicitation for up to 100,000 containers is part of a larger effort to ensure all trash placed on the street for pickup is enclosed — a bulwark against rats and foul odors. The city is moving toward that goal in phases: Last week, the city began requiring all businesses to put their trash in containers, and this fall it will require residential buildings with up to nine units to put out their trash in wheelie bins.

But larger residential buildings have bigger needs for trash disposal. Enter the European-style containers, which were deployed in parts of West Harlem under a pilot program last year — to mixed reviews.

Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch said in a statement on Friday that the containers would eventually “replace the huge piles of trash from the largest buildings and bring New York City in line with our global peers.”

According to the sanitation department, the planned containers will take care of 60% of residential trash in the city. Buildings with at least 31 units, which account for half of residential trash, will have to use stationary containers, while those with between 10 and 30 units will get to choose whether to use the large containers or wheelie bins.

“Because buildings of 31 units or more generate enough waste to support at least one European-style on-street container, each building will have its own container(s) for exclusive use of its residents,” the department said in a release. “Unique to New York City, the containers will not be shared between multiple buildings, better matching our City’s density and allowing buildings to more easily maintain and clean the containers.”

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