Dumpsters will soon disappear from downtown Memphis and will be replaced by six trash compactors after the Memphis City Council ponied up $300,000 last week to get the transition started.
Downtown dumpsters were outlawed by the council in November. Council members approved a $200 monthly fine for each one that remained. The fine was levied on the businesses and residents who use the dumpsters in hopes of pressuring them to find another way to get rid of their garbage, such as hiring a private trash removal company.
Carly Knight, president of the River Row condominiums' homeowners association, told council members last week that the fine has created problems. Her neighbors at the Barton Flats condos got rid of their dumpster to avoid the fines, she said, and "have been helping themselves to our dumpster." Also, other residents started placing their trash on the curb, and their bags are "routinely torn open and rummaged through."
"Downtown Memphis is the front porch of this city," Knight said. "It's where we receive our visitors and where many of us go for our entertainment and leisure time. So it is in everyone's best interest for downtown to look neat and to be orderly and sanitary."
Back in November, Councilman Lee Harris proposed using $300,000 in city reserve funds to build six concrete pads downtown for the trash compactors, which would be purchased and managed by a private company. The proposal was tabled on fears of tapping the dwindling reserves, with Council Chairman Jim Strickland telling Harris, "We just don't have the money."
The new proposal will instead use $300,000 from the city's solid waste fund. Downtown business owners and residents who use the compactors will ultimately pay that money back to the city through a fee on their monthly utility bills, according to Memphis Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom. The fee will be based on individual usage, which will be monitored via unique access codes for the compactors assigned to owners and residents.
Public Works will carve out a "downtown compactor district," Gilliom said, to determine who uses the compactors. The district will encompass the area between Front and Third streets and between Poplar Avenue to Peabody Place.
Atlanta-based Sustainable Solutions Group will purchase the compactors and manage them for about 10 to 15 percent of the total fees collected on the compactors, though negotiations were still underway last week, Gilliom said.
The city now runs a small, solid-waste crew through the area, Gilliom said, to remove bags of trash left outside dumpsters and on the sidewalks by businesses and residents. Those crews won't have to run when the compactors are installed, he said, which will also save the city money.
Downtowners who think they'll continue to skirt the fees and put their trash on the curb should be wary.
"We are working with the Downtown [Memphis] Commission and pretty much know who's behind every door downtown, those who are paying [the current dumpster fees] and those who are not paying," Gilliom said. "We want to make sure if you live or operate a business in the compactor district, that you're paying your fair share."