When we talk about litter and those common anti-litter programs that are aimed at stopping people from littering, the most ubiquitous visual we see on anti-litter signs on our city streets is that of a pedestrian placing litter in its proper place…a public trash receptacle. While this type of signage and plea to the public to act responsibly with their banana peels and gum wrappers is important, of equal or greater importance are the actions of those players who generate trash and affect the regularly scheduled trash placement and collection process in commercial districts: business operators, residential tenants and public/private trash haulers. (Note to the reader: this article only addresses normal trash placement and collection; illegal dumping will be the subject of a future article.)
For those who generate and place garbage at the edge of the sidewalk in front of their business or residence every few days, that activity may seem like a routine operation of business or a personal housekeeping matter which is fulfilled once the trash leaves the front door. However, for those who have a management responsibility for city sidewalks, it is understood that the delivery of that trash to the sidewalk has a real impact on the cleanliness and level of litter in a district.
Poor Trash Packaging Practices
Trash packaging is the critical first step in the overall collection and disposal process. The degree to which trash packaging is done in a considerate and responsible way determines how the trash will impact the district during the time between when it is placed outside and when it is picked up. Trash that is not adequately protected from wind, animals, homeless individuals and scavengers, ultimately makes its way into the curb-line and pedestrian passageways in the district. The most common problems that we see in the mishandling of trash and recyclables include the following bad habits:
Municipal/Private Sanitation Pick-up
As would be expected, municipal sanitation workers and private haulers play an important role when it comes to the collection and disposal of trash in commercial districts. Notwithstanding the tough job that sanitation workers have in dealing with everyone else’s smelly and gnarly refuse each day, it is still important to hold them accountable for the manner in which the streets and sidewalks are left following their trash collection duties. The picture on the left illustrates litter that was left by broken bags as they were tossed into a garbage truck by a private trash hauler.
Too often the litter that we encounter on city streets each day is the result of careless trash packaging, which is then exacerbated by equally careless trash collection and hauling practices. Trash collection practices that fail to meet the standards and expectations of the public must be confronted firmly, but with a sensitivity to the challenges that sanitation departments face in trying to adequately serve the public with far less staff and resources than are necessary. In the case of private haulers, the business stakeholders that hire the vendors must be engaged and be made a part of the process.
The role of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)
The very nature of BIDs places them at the center of a public/private partnership that is charged with supplementing and strengthening existing municipal (public) services and leveraging the BID assessment to preserve existing, and attract new, private investment. In the case of litter and trash collection, BIDs meet their responsibilities and the expectations of local stakeholders in several ways:
In conclusion, a great deal of the litter that we see in our commercial districts can be prevented by greater stakeholder awareness of their own trash packaging practices and sound initiatives that can be taken by BID managers to engage and educate stakeholders and those who are responsible for collecting and removing trash from commercial districts.
Chris Bernardo is the President of Commercial District Services LLC (CDS), a leading provider of public space management services to business improvement districts. For the last 20 years, Chris has devoted his professional life to the revitalization of commercial districts and the improvement of public spaces. In 2018 CDS is providing service to 13 BIDs in New Jersey and several privately managed public spaces.
Chris can be reached at 201-424-6499 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.