A new initiative coming to downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, aims to keep sidewalks clean and save space, time and money.
Raleigh’s oldest streets were built without alleys, and the trash and recycling carts lining its sidewalks have long been an issue for pedestrians. According to the city, the containers smell, restrict access and were identified as the top concern in a 2018 downtown cleanliness survey.
To help alleviate the problem, the city began installing an underground waste collection system May 28.
The pilot project includes six new high-capacity containers from Ontario, Canada-based Molok North America to collect trash, mixed recycling and cardboard. The containers will turn a no-parking zone into the first municipal installation of its kind in the United States.
“It’s very exciting for us that Raleigh is the first city in the country to adopt this underground storage model,” Raleigh Solid Waste Services Director Stan Joseph says. “It’s a simple concept using innovative technology. The bottom line is that we want to improve quality of life—and part of that is getting garbage carts off the sidewalks and away from neighbors and visitors enjoying downtown.”
Each of the new semi-underground Molok containers will hold the equivalent of approximately 20 carts, providing potential cost savings and reducing environmental impacts.
Six days a week, city crews pick up the traditional rolling carts twice a day. They also collect once Sunday. Businesses are required to pull the carts to the curb and back again, which requires staff time to manage.
“This should greatly reduce the overall amount of time our trucks spend on the street, a benefit for cars, pedestrians and our downtown crew’s safety,” Joseph says.
The city’s Solid Waste Services department will monitor fullness levels and handle collections, using a retrofitted knuckleboom truck with a hook to serve as a cost-effective crane to manage the large containers.
The city’s Sustainability Fund, created by Raleigh’s City Council to fund innovation and sustainability projects, provided funding to purchase the containers and modify the truck. The pilot project falls under the city’s Strategic Plan Growth & Natural Resources Objective 3, which aims to “optimize public infrastructure projects to address community resiliency, sustainability and efficiency.”
“This is an exciting collaboration between several city departments as well as the community,” Raleigh Sustainability Manager Megan Anderson says. “The Sustainability Fund Committee is enthusiastic in its support of this innovative project.”
A partnership between Raleigh Arts, the Department of Transportation, and Molok North America created an opportunity to wrap the three recycling containers in artwork commissioned by three local artists: Autumn Cobeland, Lincoln Hancock and Jermaine Powell.
The city encourages downtown businesses to give up their 95-gallon trash and recycling rolling carts for the June 2019–May 2020 pilot period. Waste collection fees are not affected by pilot participation.