Talking trash: D.C. begins search for the new Supercan

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,Mary Cheh,Vincent Gray

Compared to billions of dollars spent on human support services, the five-year, $10 million plan to replace an array of trashcans and recycling bins District-wide is a drop in the bucket.

But, in terms of direct impact, finding new Supercans -- which many residents lug around every week -- might be one of the most readily apparent changes to come out of Mayor Vincent Gray's $10.1 billion budget proposal. When he introduced his 2014 budget proposal to the D.C. Council, Supercan replacement funding even earned a mention on the slideshow and plaudits from council members.

The city wants to replace all of the city's 96-gallon green Supercans over the next two years. That's more than 70,000 households worth of cans, according to Department of Public Works Director William Howland Jr.

Some components of the Supercans, the large trashcans on wheels, are no longer being made and the cans -- many of which are more than 10 years old -- are starting to show signs of wear.

The city also wants to replace 32-gallon trash cans that are collected twice a week, plus 32-gallon recycling cans. Those replacements will take place after the decades-old Supercans have been swapped for new ones, Howland said.

The Department of Public Works plans to study a number of designs before selecting a new Supercan.

"One of the things I want to look at is do we need a thicker lid or a lighter lid -- and then looking at the hinging mechanism," Howland said. "We're looking at a bunch of cans now that we know we have the money."

Council members also are concerned about the Supercans. After all, they're often the ones fielding calls from frustrated residents.

"Should the lids be more secure?" asked Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh. "You get raccoons and you get rats."

"Is there some way to make them even better in keeping out rats?" she asked.

The Department of Public Works charges $62.50 for the Supercan and $45 for the recycling bin and the 32-gallon garbage can. The mayor's office has considered starting to allow residents to replace stolen or broken trash cans for free.

In fiscal 2012, the city collected about 96,000 tons of trash in addition to 34,000 tons of recyclables. The city also composted more than 7,000 tons of leaves and removed more than 16,000 vehicles that were blocking rush-hour traffic.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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