City Government

Published on January 7th, 2016 |


BigBelly trash talk an issue at 2 Buckhead meetings, downtown

There was some BigBelly trash talk going on during two Buckhead meetings yesterday and in emails with Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook. It was probably not what the city’s Department of Public Works was hoping to hear.

The BigBelly talk centered on the rather large street side solar-powered trash cans called BigBelly Solar Compactors. The high-tech trash eaters hold five times

This is an example of one of the BigBelly trash compactor receptacles at issue.

This is an example of one of the BigBelly trash compactor receptacles at issue.

the amount of litter as a traditional trash can thanks to a built-in trash compactor.

Apparently, the city’s Public Works leaders have been seriously looking into placing about 80 of these in Buckhead—along Peachtree Road in the Village area and the central commercial core—and in the two Special Public Interest districts (SPI-9 and SPI-12)—that are largely controlled by the Buckhead Community Improvement District.

The reason: the cans cut down on the number of trash pick-up trips by the city—which can save operating costs—and, likely more important, they are big enough to display major advertising messages—which could generate additional revenue for the city.

Another example of a BigBelly trash receptacle.

Another example of a BigBelly trash receptacle.

The problems (as discussed at the two Jan. 6 meetings and with Councilman Shook) are: (1) there apparently are no controls over what advertising goes on the BigBelly receptacles and (2) they are not acceptable under the streetscape guidelines established for SPI-9 and SPI-12.

As Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, said in discussion with her SPI-12 Development Review Committee meeting Jan. 6, “The public spent at least a year in each case developing the SPI-9 and SPI-12 guidelines for the streetscapes in Buckhead and those don’t allow what amounts to billboards attached to trash and recycling receptacles along the sidewalks.”

It was pointed out earlier in that day, during a meeting of the Buckhead Community Improvement District board, that the CID has spent tens of millions of dollars and a decade and a half carefully improving Buckhead’s streetscapes for a better environment.

The CID board told its Executive Director Jim Durrett to send the message back to the city’s Department of Public Works that this is a bad idea and not acceptable to the Buckhead CID.

Map shows city's proposed Buckhead locations for placing BigBelly trash receptacles

Map shows city’s proposed Buckhead locations for placing BigBelly trash receptacles

CID board member Scott Selig, who brought the matter to the board’s attention at the Jan. 6 meeting, “Think of the tens of millions of dollars we have spent on the aesthetics of the area.”  He suggested this could wipe out all that good work and the value of the money spent.

Atlanta city planning department staffer, who works with the SPI-12 DRC, told the committee members Jan. 6, “Once ads are on it, it will not meet the sign ordinance requirements.” He added that the receptacles “are not allowed on the sidewalks or the in the clear zones,” according to SPI-9 and SPI-12 regulations.

This map shows the city's proposed sites for BigBelly receptacles in Midtown (red) and Downtown (yellow) Atlanta.

This map shows the city’s proposed sites for BigBelly receptacles in Midtown (red) and Downtown (yellow) Atlanta.

Supposedly, the city planned to work with the CIDs in Midtown and Downtown Atlanta as well as in Buckhead on this program, but it has become clear that neither Midtown nor Downtown are interested either. Midtown and Downtown were reportedly scheduled to get 140 BigBelly receptacles each.

An apparent problem is that the city’s Public Works Department pursued the BigBelly service without communicating with any of the other city departments, the various CIDs that would be impacted, or City Council.

Apparently Public Works saw a new potential revenue source as well as a way to reduce overhead by reducing the number of trash pickups. The BigBelly solar-powered smart trash compactors send a signal when they are full so that the city only sends out a collection crew when the compactor is full and ready to be emptied.

Street side solar-powered trash cans reportedly are saving Philadelphia a million dollars a year. Philadelphia Streets Department spokeswoman

Photo shows one of the BigBelly receptacle locations in Philadelphis.

Photo shows one of the BigBelly receptacle locations in Philadelphis.

Keisha McCarty-Skelton has claimed the extra capacity has made all the difference. “The collections have been reduced from 17 to three collections per week,” she reported.

However, in Buckhead, the city does not collect the trash from street side receptacles within the non-residential community improvement district. The BCID pays $48,000 a year to have a private vendor collect the trash within the BCID boundaries.

After BuckeadView queried Councilman Shook about the BigBelly project at Public Works, Shook said he knew nothing about it, but emailed Commissioner Richard Mendoza to find out about the project.

“I let him know that Atlanta’s CIDs would likely have a lot of heartburn about not having any input about advertising,” Shook told BuckheadView. He said he also told Mendoza, “Obviously any such deal would have to be approved by City Council.”

Mendoza emailed back to Shook, “Our current code restricts advertising in the public rights of way. However, we are looking at revising to allow solar powered trash compactors.”

On Thursday, Shook said in an email, “No one in the administration has responded to my questions with anything more in-depth than ‘We’ll get back to you.’ I still know nothing about the legal/financial contours of the deal.” He added that there will be First Amendment rights to be taken into account.

“Evidently these folks didn’t know that Atlanta has community improvement districts that take their work very seriously,” Shook wrote. “I guess the time will come when they realize it also has a City Council.”

BCID board member John Barton may have summed up the Buckhead organization’s sentiments when he told Durrett, “Tell them we appreciate the city trying to find ways to generate more revenues (through advertising on trash receptacles), but this one is not acceptable.”

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    2 Responses to BigBelly trash talk an issue at 2 Buckhead meetings, downtown

    1. Buckhead Betty says:

      Another prime example of the dysfunction of this city. The right arm doesn’t know what the left is doing. The photo from the receptacles in Philly doesn’t show any advertising. Why would Atlanta allow such garish advertising on receptacles here?

    2. JeffreyK says:

      For once I’m happy the city is ignoring Buckhead south of Garden Hills.

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