Trash Talk: 32nd Ward Joins Garbage Grid

By Patty Wetli | Monday, September 17, 2012

Streets & San brings grid-based garbage collection to the 32nd Ward. Credit: Flickr/SMcGarnigle

Today’s the day grid-based garbage collection rolls out in the 32nd Ward (see map)–welcome, neighbors, to this brave new world.

During the week of Sept. 17, 65,000 households will join the grid, which, according to the Department of Streets and Sanitation, “changes collection routes from non-linear ward geography to a system of routes bordered by main streets and natural boundaries.” Residents should have received notification last week of their assigned day of the week for refuse collection.

The routes were developed by Streets & San in conjunction with a consultant and take into account factors including geography, congestion and tonnage of garbage produced. “We worked with ward superintendents to vet the maps,” said Anne Sheahan, director of public affairs for Streets & San. “Are these feasible routes? Are these efficient routes?”

Included in the third phase of the grid rollout (the entire city will require seven to eight phases total, according to Sheahan), the 32nd Ward benefits from knowledge gained from phases one and two.

The 47th Ward, on the grid since June and one of the system’s original guinea pigs, identified one of the major issues related to the new routes: overflowing garbage baskets in high-traffic commercial districts.

“On Monday and Tuesday, I have no trucks,” said Jim Poole, community specialist for the 47th Ward, which is slated for refuse pick-up Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. After a busy weekend in Lincoln Square, the towers of trash in baskets surrounding Giddings Plaza begin to resemble engineering experiments. “They’re having the same issues everywhere,” he said, having touched base with his counterparts in other wards.

Sheahan acknowledged that some baskets fill up more quickly than others, particularly those placed at busy intersections or outside restaurants or coffee shops–we’re looking at you, Southport and Lincoln Avenues. “At other locations, we have issues where people dump household or business trash into these containers,” she said.

Streets & San is relying on reports from businesses, ward offices and calls to 3-1-1 to identify trouble spots in the grid. “We are in conversation with the 47th Ward and in some of our other areas,” said Sheahan.

One solution has been to reroute trucks from alley duty and swing them around to baskets, but that assumes a truck is in the neighborhood in the first place. “To draw in [a truck] on a Monday takes extraordinary effort,” said Poole.

“As this continues to roll out…we’ll have greater flexibility with some of the trucks,” said Sheahan. “How can we redeploy our resources?”

At stake are tens of millions in cost savings. “That’s not Monopoly money,” said Poole. “We want to give the department a chance to work it out; there’s no reason we can’t figure this out.”

Grid Garbage Phase 3

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  • Steve Jensen

    Now that S&S is “more efficient”, can we get the basket cans back in our major intersections?

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