Bigbelly Garbage Cans Bring New Trouble to Chinatown

Garbage, some of it too big to fit through the opening of the Bigbelly, is left beside the garbage can. (Photo by Jiaying Yan via World Journal)

Supported by solar power with high-tech functions, the so-called “Bigbelly” garbage can that were newly installed in Chinatown may look fancy. But only a week after they arrived, complaints are on the rise. Residents and businesses say the mouth of the Bigbelly is too small for some of the regular garbage to go through. So people just dump the garbage beside the trash cans and make the street even further from being clean and rat-free, the result the Bigbellies are supposed to bring. “I don’t like the new garbage cans,” many residents in Chinatown said.

In the summer, Mayor de Blasio announced in Chinatown that the city would invest $32 million to bring 336 Bigbellies to the most rat-ridden neighborhoods in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Chinatown, where the rat problem is especially bad, got 118 bins, which cost $70,000 each. The bins have foot peddles so people can open the lid without touching the trash can and dump garbage into the sealed bins. The bin can also automatically compress the garbage inside with solar energy. This way, the city hopes, the rats would not find a way to scavenge for food in the trash. Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership, told the media that the Bigbellies can help reduce the work load of sanitation workers and the cost of keeping Chinatown clean.    

(Photo by Jiaying Yan via World Journal)

But residents in Chinatown now welcome the shiny new bins with “thanks, but no thanks.” A fruit vendor whose stand is at the intersection of Mulberry Street and Canal Street, said that the mouth of the Bigbelly is too small. She witnessed pedestrians frustrated when they couldn’t put in a soda bottle or other items of similar or larger size. Facing no other choice, they have to place the garbage beside the bin. Then other people would do that as well, and garbage was soon piled up on the street. 

Mrs. Moy, a Chinatown resident, said that ever since the Bigbellies were installed, she often sees garbage bags placed on the ground beside the bins. Some bags were chewed by rats with dirty water leaking out through the holes. “I saw tourists placing coconut shells on the top of the solar board of the bins after they sipped out the juice,” said Moy. “These bins may be expensive. But if they don’t serve their duty, what does the money buy?”

Jinhong Hu, who has been working as a sanitation worker for the Chinatown Business Improvement District for two years, said before the Bigbellies, he and his colleagues collected garbage three times a day to keep the street clean. Now it is not enough. “It feels like no matter how often you collect, there is always garbage on the street,” he said. Hu said the BID is considering the possibility of increasing the frequency of collecting garbage. He also calls for people to not leave garbage beside the bins which makes his work harder.  

In this SinoVision English Channel video, Wellington Chen speaks about his organization’s efforts in working with the Chinatown BID to clean up Chinatown, which include daily street cleaners and Bigbellies.

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