It may be bad for Baltimore’s rats and opossums, but a $9 million investment in giant garbage cans seems to be paying off for the city’s human inhabitants.
According to the Baltimore Sun, residents of several neighborhoods credit the 65-gallon “behemoths” with keeping vermin at bay. (The paper also lists feral cats, foxes and raccoons in what has apparently become something of a smelly, curbside ecosystem.)
The rollout of 170,000 new trash cans began last March. The city spent $9 million in total after a pilot program showed the large cans’ sanitation advantages. According to the Sun, the program takes its lead from others in San Francisco and Charlotte, North Carolina.
While bigger may be better as far as rats go, some cities have addressed the problem of waste-outside-the-can by instituting a system known as “pay-as-you-throw.” Basically, toss more and you pay more. In 2014, Memphis debated the policy, which has been praised by the EPA but isn’t always popular in cash-strapped municipalities. (Here are some other innovations under the important but not-so-glamorous topic heading of city garbage.)
In Baltimore, some residents worried that the cans would be an eyesore, especially in compact neighborhoods defined by rowhouses (they can elect to have a smaller size if they wish). According to the Sun, resident James Wolf went on a “crusade” against them when they were first introduced — but he’s since come around.
“It’s nice to see something done that has noticeable results,” he said. “We used to see two or three rats going down our street a night. The trash cans came, and we rarely ever see them.”
And that’s a good thing, as far as the city’s budget is concerned. Last year, the Sun reported that the $9 million spent on the new cans will be offset by savings to the rat abatement program.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.