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The Promise (and Challenges) of NYC’s Clean Curbs Pilot Program

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It’s an age-old question in New York City: “What do you do with millions of people’s trash every day?” And, how do you keep pests (namely, rats) away from the bags that inevitably pile up on city sidewalks?

In order to help address the rat issue—as well as the unsightly nature of mounds of garbage—the city is piloting a program called Clean Curbs. The program is based on a “deceptively simple proposal”: that trash bags be put in a bin while they await pickup. So far, the city has deployed four of these bins, which are made by Citibin, based in Brooklyn. More are expected this fall.

 “It’s not a silver bullet,” noted Joshua Goodman, the assistant commissioner for public affairs at the Department of Sanitation. But, “We’re moving ahead with a $1.3 million plan to pilot bins of different kinds and configurations.” Mr. Goodman also said that the city “would encourage commercial properties to explore containerization, or to store trash in a basement or on a loading dock before pickup, instead of the sidewalk.”

Naturally, there are a lot of variables to tackle with a program like Clean Curbs. As the pilot progresses, the city will need to understand the answers to questions like: “How big does the container need to be? Can it stand up to the weather year-round? Who is responsible for digging it out after a snowstorm? Does the container work with the city’s trash pickup procedures or do changes need to be made? Should the doors of the shed open toward the street or should they lift up? Are combination locks the way to go? What about locks with keys?”

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