2014-09-04 / Around Town

More 'BigBellies' Arrive to Combat Newport Trash

By Tom Walsh

BigBellies on Broadway. BigBellies on Broadway. As a city that depends heavily on tourism to maintain its fiscal wellbeing, Newport needs clean, trashand litter-free streets – especially in the downtown areas so heavily traveled by visitors.

“It’s a constant balancing act of prevention and also cleaning up litter that’s there,” said Kristin Littlefield, Newport’s Clean City Program coordinator.

Right after Labor Day, Littlefield began to deploy round two of the program’s latest weapon—30 new “BigBelly” solar trash compactors that will replace some of the 225 older litter barrels that formerly stood throughout the city in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic and in city parks. She said about 100 of the older barrels will remain in use.

“The new compactors can hold four-to-five times as much trash as regular barrels,” Littlefield said. The additional new barrels are part of a contract the city has with Waste Management, Inc. Under that contract, the barrels are emptied by Waste Management and maintained by the Clean City Program.

For most of the past year, the city has used 20 “BigBelly” solar trash barrels as well as five “BigBelly” solar compacting recycling barrels. The recycling units are used in combination with solar trash receptacles to form what is called a “duo station.”

According to Littlefield, the current installation of new equipment will result in 50 stand-alone “Big- Belly” trash compactors and 15 duo stations.

The Clean City Program website describes the larger “BigBelly” receptacles as a “somewhat new addition to the Thames Street corridor.” In their first year of use, the new trash compactors reduced trash pickups by 65 percent in the summer months (from 14 per week to four or five) and by 80 percent in winter months (from 14 pickups per week to one or two), the website reports.

The recycling compactors have also seen a clean stream of recyclables, the site reported.

Littlefield said that at least two restaurants downtown, the Brick Alley Pub on upper Thames Street and Sardella’s on William Street have been allowed to keep their old barrels on the sidewalks adjacent to the restaurants. “Unofficially they have been allowed to keep their old barrels and have agreed to take responsibility for emptying them,” Littlefield said. She said some establishments did not relish having city litter receptacles at their front doors.

And, Littlefield said, fewer trash pickups with the solar receptacles help to ease traffic on congested downtown streets and help to enhance safety.

The solar trash and recycling barrels cost between $4,000 and $5,000 each. However, Littlefield said, the city did not pay anything for them. Under the Waste Management contract, the savings realized by fewer trash and recycling pickups covers what would otherwise be a cost to the city.

“They are an up and coming litter capturing method, as well as a way to streamline collections,” Littlefield said.

Some places in Newport don't even use trash barrels. For example, at state parks–Brenton Point on Ocean Road, for example–there are no trash receptacles. Visitors must remove whatever they bring to the park—trash included.

That may work in more isolated areas, but not in the center city itself. “It would not be appropriate for all areas of the city,” Littlefield said.

“I can tell you a story,” she said. “We had a trash barrel located right near Brenton Point. It seemed to be always overflowing with litter, especially with so many seagulls around. Finally we just removed it, and that was a success because the area has remained clean.”

Meanwhile, the city’s residential trash collection program is getting ready to begin delivering new 65-gallon trash and recycling barrels in October. City residents will begin using the new barrels on November 3. The new barrels, besides the larger capacity, are designed to better enable Waste Management trucks to pick up the barrels and load the contents. The contractor will continue to use employees who will take barrels from the curb and put them back when emptied.

“It’s called a semi-automated system,” Littlefield said.

And what will become of the various trash and recycling receptacles now in use?

“We will be sponsoring a couple of recycling events to help people to dispose of their old barrels,” Littlefield said.

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