Waste Systems

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Eastern Market, Detroit

Eastern Market, Detroit

Waste disposal remains an issue in the Eastern Market District. Sure, we have moved on from the days when market vendors would just leave waste to be scooped up by front end loaders at the end of the day, but throughout the market district dumpsters serving individual businesses proliferate and often are not emptied frequently enough to discourage litter, vermin, and/or odor.

Neighborhood approaches found in every city I visited provided ample evidence that there are better ways to handle waste. Regardless of the technology employed, more frequent emptying of smaller receptacles allowed for convenient placement of containers without impeding pedestrian traffic, reducing parking supply, or encouraging litter.

The system in my Athens neighborhood was very simple: there you found two containers in every block - one for general waste the other for recyclables. A typical block held 75-100 residential units split between 10-12 buildings that also contained between 20-25 storefronts. If each building had to fend for itself the number of containers would dominate the landscape and the increase in vehicles to service the units would increase congestion, noise, and air pollution.

The same concept was adjusted to fit local needs. In Thessaloniki, with a burgeoning restaurant scene, the number of units and their appearance was upgraded. In Barcelona, a modular system with more automation was introduced with four flavors of waste streams, while Florence took that approach one step further with a much more complicated system that preserved aesthetics and put most of the storage capacity below grade.

Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki, Greece

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

The scarcity of space and the need to reduce odor, litter, while maintaining a high aesthetic value made the considerable investment by Florence the appropriate solution.

Even the rural areas in Spain participate in the pooling of waste management services. Near Canyelles, a small town near Barcelona, this is the local waste collection point that serves an area about ½ mile in diameter.

 
Canyelles, Spain

Canyelles, Spain

 

In Eastern Market, one of the lower tech options would help reduce the total number of waste receptacles, make sidewalk use more enjoyable, and reduce the loss of parking spaces.

Further, the current system of policing overflowing dumpsters, a cumbersome mix of notifications and ticketing, would be mitigated by more frequent servicing.

While large waste producers would continue to provide for their own waste disposal needs, merchants, residents, and small wholesale operations could come together to participate in a neighborhood approach that is likely to improve conditions.

Negotiating one large contract will also provide cost savings in comparison to the many small contracts now in force between individual businesses and trash haulers.

All it takes is about 120 business and property owners to agree. 

Dan Carmody

Carmody Consulting, Detroit, MI 48207, USA