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Mayor Vince Gray announced to much fanfare last month that the Department of Public Works would start delivering new Supercans and bigger recycling bins to each District household in January. But the plan hit a major hiccup yesterday when the D.C. Council voted unanimously to reject $9 million in funding for the project, which was largely slated to be bankrolled by the city’s retiree health-care fund.
Gray, according to the Post, had justified drawing the money from the fund (and decreasing the District’s mandatory contribution to it next year from $107 million to $90 million) because the fund had done well recently in the stock market.
“I think it should have been approved unanimously,” Gray said today. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody who says they are opposed to Supercans.”
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says he’s all for new trash and recycling cans, but he didn’t like where the money for it was coming from.
Gray says he’ll now go back to the drawing board and determine another source for the funding. A fifth of the money for the project is coming from the regular budget, so 20 percent of households will get new cans before new funding is secured.
But as the mayor scrambles to find new funding, some in the District have already questioned whether replacing every single can actually makes sense. (Under the mayor’s plan, every household would receive a new trash and recycling bin, though people could opt to keep their functioning old ones as well for extra space.)
“It’s a huge waste to replace the trash cans like for like when upwards of 95% of the current cans might be old but they are fully serviceable,” wrote Richard Layman on the blog Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space.
According to DPW, in 2013 the agency repaired 8,216 containers and did 2,934 lid repairs. Between 2009 and 2012, DPW repaired about 15,000 cans and lids. Many of the cans are up to 12 years old. There are about 105,000 households served by DPW in the District, with each one having at least one trash can and recycling bin.
The stats suggest that as the years go one, more cans are deteriorating and are in need of repair. But they also suggest that there are plenty of cans in working condition, so if Gray’s plan gets delayed, D.C. likely won’t fester in its own filth immediately.
Additional reporting by Will Sommer
Photo by Perry Stein