Tuesday night on the 5th floor of Boston City Hall, over 50 concerned Downtown Boston residents packed a meeting room regarding the upcoming renewal of the Boston Public Works Trash and Recycling Contract. Matthew Maryl, the Chief of Staff for the Public Works Department led the meeting with slides laying out the facts, numbers, goals, and the bidding process. Frank O’Brien from the Public Works Department along with Rob DeRosa, the Superintendent for Waste Reduction, were on hand to help further explain the bidding process and address concerns. PWD also made a video on Boston Trash.

Matthew Mayrl (Standing Left) and Frank O'Brien (Sitting Right) answer questions from local residents. Photo by Conor Finley
Matthew Mayrl (Standing Left) and Frank O’Brien (Sitting Right) answer questions from local residents. Photo by Conor Finley.

The presentation explained that there are currently three trash collections a week, and a weekly recycling pick up in the North End neighborhood. They then went through how the overall trash system works, the City’s goals for the next five year contract, and they wanted to get residents’ concerns.

Facts & Statistics:
625,000 residents
60 trucks circle the city every day and touch 300,000 households of Boston every week
650 total tons of trash on the sidewalk in the morning; gone by the time they get home
Recycling 46,000 tons of year. Only 20% of household refuse is recycled
$40.2 million in annual costs in FY2013
22.1 – million for collection expense
18.1 million for disposal expenses

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City Councilor Sal LaMattina & State Representative Aaron Michlewitz were on hand to help address local issues and concerns. “The trash looks messy, it attracts rodents, and it’s left there in some cases, all day,” said Representative Michlewitz. “The trash needs to be put out appropriately, and it cannot be left on the street – this has to be addressed in the new contract, its one of the biggest issues we face.”

A packed meeting at City Hall to discuss Boston Public Works Trash Contract. Photo by Conor Finley
A packed meeting at City Hall to discuss Boston Public Works Trash Contract. Photo by Conor Finley.

 The Bidding Process Timeline is as follows:
January 2014 – disposal contracts bid out
Mar 2014 – collection contracts bid out
April 2014 – bidding process is closed
Summer 2014 – new contract begins 

Public Works asked for feedback on how to better align trash and recycling collection schedules downtown. Whether it was three trash pickups and one recycling pickup a week, or would it be better to have 2 trash, and 2 recycling pickups per week? Lastly, Public Works wants know your level of interest in future food waste diversion. (Click Here for Survey)

They want to maintain service quality – July 1st, new contract in place, they need to maintain the trash service of garbage on the street when people leave for work, and when they come home the garbage is gone and the sidewalks are clean. They also stressed the necessity to promote recycling & reduce the amount of waste. They are also looking for feedback on the possibility of extending the amount of yard waste collections. Currently, there are 11 weeks annually for additional yard waste collections, new contract could allow for 4 more additional weeks.

The floor was then open for questions. Questions ranged from just about everything and anything related to trash issues in the city: residents questioned where the source of food waste was mostly coming from, whether trash should be allowed to be placed on the sidewalk from 5pm – 7am (14 hours a day – 42 hours a week maximum).

There were concerns of people put out trash either too early, too late, or on off days. Some residents suggested having same day trash pickup between 6am – 9am. Concerns of overnight trash sitting out raised issues of public health and the issue of rodents, and trash pickers digging through the trash. In additions, there were concerns about Christmas tree pick-ups closer to the day of Christmas. Residents also asked what could be done about move out weekends, especially around the first weekend of September. Many North End Residents expressed their concerns of absentee landlords not taking the responsibility to educate tenants on when and where to take the garbage out properly.

For additional information and to submit comments, please contact Frank O’Brien of Boston PWD at Frank.O’Brien@cityofboston.gov.
*The on-line survey is available at www.cityofboston.gov/publicworks. Hard copies are also available at local branches of the Boston Public Libraries. Click Here

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27 COMMENTS

  1. If they are going to propose 2 days of trash pick up and 2 days of recycling pick up, they absolutely need to be on the same days or else they’ll be more trash on the street than we have now. I would 100% support Tues/Thurs pick up for both trash and recycling.

    • I travel every week for work, Monday-Thursday. Under your plan, I would never legally be able to leave my trash outside for pickup. I’m all for reducing collection to two days per week, but one of those days should be Monday. Many residents need to get rid of trash and especially recycling that have accumulated over the weekend.

  2. i don’t think 2 trash pickups is going to change anything. as a matter of fact i’ll bet that nothing will change no matter what is done. the reason being is that these transient residents,not all but most, do not care what the rules are. they put trash out whenever they feel like. as a life long resident/landlord, i try my best to make sure my tenants know the rules. these non live in landlords, and condo owners who rent, have to make sure their tenants follow the rules. the code enforcement tickets, when given, don’t change anything. start fining the owners and the tenants higher fees. you can also threaten tenants with eviction if they don’t follow the rules. start a trash tax on the violators. not that i want to do this but in my opinion, the only thing that will solve the problem is to have the residents bring the trash to a dump site themselves like they do in the sticks. no trash on the street. i know this is impossible, but nothing will change. i guarantee. kudo’s to everyone trying to make the north end a clean place to live. final note. i’ve caught over 60 rats since may. haven’t made a dent. sorry for the rant.

  3. I highly doubt there will be any major changes. The lowest bidder will win, end of story. When 50 residents out of 625,000 (0.008%) show up to the meeting, it proves most people don’t care.

  4. First things first in terms of enforcement. The DPW needs to create a COMPREHENSIVE database of all the addresses in the neighborhood, not just the addresses that are on streets along which the trash trucks drive. I have been receiving violation notices and fines repeatedly for garbage that the tenants in the adjacent buildings leave in front of my building – even though the garbage has the name of the offending resident and their address on it – not mine or that of my building. The enforcement officer opens the bag, finds the mail with the offender’s name and address, takes a photo of it and attaches the photo to the violation that they then send to me, in my name, at my address. It is absolutely ridiculous! I have called and called (both DPW and Mayor’s Hotline), written appeal after appeal, but the DPW claims that the offending buildings addresses are “not in their system”! Then fix your system! Add the offenders’ addresses! They are buildings in this neighborhood. You have cold hard evidence of who is causing the problem! It’s enough of an inconvenience that I have 8 times the trash I should have in front of my building 3 days a week because all the tenants in those buildings pile it there! I am writing this because I feel that those residents who keep saying that the answer is tougher enforcement do not have the complete picture. The enforcement needs to be smarter before it is tougher: ALL addresses in the neighborhood must be put into the DPW’s database.

  5. Trash and recycling pickup on the same morning, two days a week. No more 3 day a week trash pickup.
    5 am to 9 am on the curb (no more trash/recycling out the night before).

    • wont work. the people who work nights are not getting up at 5-9am to put out the trash. they will put it out when they feel like going outside. therefore the trash will be on the street even longer. like i posted before, start a trash tax. owners get taxed, violators get a warning for eviction for 1st offense, after that, evict them.

      • Good point about the people who work nights. Surely we can move the allowed time of 5 pm to something like 9 pm. But the big improvement would be going from 3 trash pickups and 1 recycling pickup to 2 pickups of each per week (on the same morning).

        • as we all know. laws can be changed. something DRASTIC needs to be done to improve our quality of life. these violators need to be punished. landlords can add addendums to leases. if you violate the trash rules it’s cause for eviction. The north end is such a beautiful place to live, but at the same time it looks like a slum. the taxes we pay in boston/north end is rediculous. they can’t keep the sidewalks free of trash? wtf? the rodents are overwhelming! like i posted before, since may i have caught 60 rats. not even a dent.

  6. I have had the same problem as SBW- trash piled in front of my house – often improperly bagged by the students who live in the absentee landlord’s building next door- and I get a ticket and fine. How is this fair? I end up having to clean up the sidewalk as well, as the trash gets spilled all over the place.

    • Thank you for speaking up. “Talk to the owner of the neighboring building” obviously does not work in hard core cases (and hopefully I have made clear that the kind of situation that I have been dealing about). If it worked, then we wouldn’t need enforcement officers and fines in the first place! For the enforcement system to have ANY chance of working, ALL addresses in the neighborhood need to be entered in the DPW’s database.

    • This doesn’t affect me personally, but I am sure there will be complaints from anyone that works during those hours. Nurses, police/fire, trade jobs, etc.

    • good thing its not your job to write the contract…this would be such an inconvience to soo many people who work other hours as others have already pointed out

      • Filthy street is an inconvenience to me. People would adapt. Take a look at the documentary Matt posted that was done in 1977. Look at the streets…they are immaculate. People need to look at themselves in the mirror if they want something to succeed. We need changes……the present schedule does not work because more and more people who live here now don’t care about filth.

        If inconveniencing people is going to stand in the way of changing the trash issue, be prepared to live in filth forever.

        • in reguards to the video from 1977 that you are refering to, the streets are clean because the residents are lifelong PROUD residents who kept the streets clean. our families always cleaned the sidewalks and gutters in front of their houses, and some of us still do. the problem now is some of the transient tenants who just dont give a ___!

  7. I think it would be nice to create and enforce a law which prohibits people from ripping open your trash at 3am and spreading it all over the sidewalks so they can collect a nickel for a bottle! I have warned a couple of these people to stay away from the trash but they do it anyways! Give them a bigger violation than the landlord since it is almost impossible to stop them without waiting for them in the middle of the night. Have police warn them then give them a ticket. It is happening on every street and if you walk in the am you can’t even walk on some sidewalks because of the mess they create poking the the trash bags with sticks then ripping them open to take a can! UNREAL!

    • Eliminate insane deposit laws and replace them with mandatory recycling. If recycling isn’t separated from trash, the offender is ticketed.

    • former area a police captain lee was asked about this issue at a public safety meeting…. according to him it is not illegal for someone to go through your trash once it is out on the sidewalk and the police cannot do anything about it. No warnings, no tickets. Unless they change the law and/or eliminate can and bottle deposit laws (which are I think being expanded to include water and juice bottles) the police have their hands tied.

  8. This meeting should have NOTHING to do with how many times a week the trash or Recycling is picked up !!!!!!!!

    We are concerned with HOW LONG THE TRASH SITS OUT ON OUR STREETS !!!!!!

    At this stage of the game it has become a PUBLIC HEALTH MATTER !!!!!

    What’s Next~~~~THE BLACK PLAGUE ??????

    • But Janet, less pickups per week results in less time that the trash is out on the curb. The two are directly related.

      • less pickups will not change the fact that ,as stated by MB and myself, people will put the trash out whenever they want. how about picking up trash 5 days a week. the taxes we pay down here should cover it.

  9. You can make all the rules you want: change the hours “allowed” to put out trash, change the pick up times,- whatever. The bottom line is that the people that don’t give a damn and put their trash out any time they feel like, plus the people that improperly bag their trash will continue to do what they do. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. Enforcement is not practical or financially sustainable. We need a RADICAL approach and should study other large cities in the US and Europe and evaluate the success factor of the programs they have in place. Having a million plastic bags fulls of people’s trash sitting on the street (no matter for how long) seems just untenable.

    • MB – but surely you must agree we can change SOME things. We can’t start out of the gate with an already defeated attitude. Sure, there will be some offenders. But that’s not a reason to move forward with some changes for the better. Otherwise this is just talk and a waste of time.

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