WAR ON RATS: CITY TO ISSUE UNIFORM TRASH CARTS

Delivery of rodent-resistant trash carts to begin in June.

SOMERVILLE – To help control the rodent population and reduce the city’s solid waste tonnage, the City of Somerville will begin distributing uniform trash carts to residential units in June. Every household that receives trash service from the City will be provided, free of charge, with one 64-gallon, rodent-resistant wheeled trash cart similar to the Zero-Sort recycling carts already in use.

The uniform trash cart program is part of the broad new Integrated Pest Management Plan announced by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone in November that, among other efforts, includes five key initiatives designed to intensify existing City rodent control programs:

•    Financial assistance for residential rodent control
•    A new uniform residential trash cart program
•    Comprehensive Dumpster inspection and enforcement
•    Establishment of the Rodent Action Team (RAT) and
•    Rodent fertility management as piloted in New York City

The new carts’ sturdy construction and secure-fitting lids will keep out rodents, denying them a food source, and will result in fewer blown-over barrels, helping to keep streets clean and attractive on trash days. The new carts must be placed on the curb for pickup with the lid tightly closed, as noted in the City’s current ordinance. If stored outside, they must also always be tightly closed.

“We run into issues now where households have smaller trash cans that overflow, so the majority of trash is uncovered on pickup day and more likely to be stored uncovered during the week,” said Director of Inspectional Services Goran Smiljic. “Not only are the new carts harder for rodents to chew through than most commercially sold carts, the average Somerville household produces 33 gallons of trash each week, so the new 64-gallon cart will have more than 30 gallons of built-in space for overflow that will fit inside with the lid still closed tightly. This should reduce rodent access to household garbage as a food source, and removing food sources is critical in controlling the rodent population.”

Delivery of the new carts to homes will take place over a four-week period starting at the beginning of June. The carts will come with clear instructions for their use, and residents are encouraged to mark them with their address to help ensure that they stay on the property.

Data indicate that, combined with active recycling, the 64-gallon cart should offer sufficient trash capacity for more than 85 percent of households most weeks. Households producing more trash than fits in the cart may place overflow trash curbside in their current trash barrels without a lid. Over the coming months, the City will monitor use of the carts and may make changes to the program based on data and feedback from residents.

“The City and the Board of Aldermen are committed both to protecting our environment and to controlling the rodent population, and with this program we are asking residents to join in both of these efforts,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “The data show that when people have uniform carts, they throw away less. We also know that open trash barrels can attract rodents. This program gives each of us the opportunity to keep our neighborhoods clean, reduce rodent activity and support sustainability goals simply by recycling more and keeping our trash carts tightly closed.”

“It’s important that we promote a safe and healthy environment here in Somerville,” said Bill White, Alderman-At-Large and President of the Board of Aldermen. “Uniform trash carts will help us do this by reducing the rodent population, keeping trash off our streets, and limiting the amount of waste that has to be incinerated or sent to landfills.”

“As a community, we’ve worked hard to reduce the rodent population. I’m encouraged that our efforts are starting to pay off, but we can do more, and uniform trash carts are a logical next step,” said Maryann Heuston, Ward 2 Alderman and Chair of the Rodent Issues Subcommittee of the Board of Aldermen. “Rodents, like people, need access to food. The new carts will cut off that access, making it more difficult for rodents to survive and improving quality of life for residents.”  

“Examples elsewhere suggest that when you give people a uniform trash receptacle, they produce less trash, which reduces their carbon footprint, and these carts will be doing double duty by helping to reduce rodent activity as well,” said Katjana Ballantyne, Ward 7 Alderman and Chair of the Environment and Energy Committee. “I look forward to seeing how they impact the amount people throw away and the cleanliness of our streets and to working with the City and community to make the program a success.”

The carts, which are being provided by Russell Disposal, came at no cost to the City, and the City expects them to lead to cost savings in the future as solid waste tonnage decreases and the cost of disposal increases. The carts’ standard design will allow them to be picked up more easily, improving worker safety and making collection quicker and more efficient. Their handles and wheels will make them easy to roll to the curb, even when full.

Upcoming Rodent Issues Hearing
The City’s Rodent Action Team will be presenting an update on their efforts as part of the Public Hearing on Rodent Issues being held by the Rodent Issues Subcommittee of the Board of Aldermen at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, in the Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall, 93 Highland Ave.

More detailed information can be found at www.somervillema.gov/trash.