A new initiative coming to Downtown Raleigh aims to keep sidewalks clean and save space, time, and money. Raleigh’s oldest streets were built without alleys. The trash and recycling carts lining their sidewalks have long been an issue for pedestrians. The unsightly containers smell, restrict access and were identified as the top concern in a 2018 downtown cleanliness survey.
Transportation will begin installing an underground waste collection system at the corner of Wilmington and Hargett streets on May 28. The pilot project includes six new high-capacity containers from Molok North America to collect trash, mixed recycling, and cardboard. The containers will turn a no-parking zone into the first municipal installation of its kind in the United States.
“It’s very exciting for us that Raleigh is the first city in the country to adopt this underground storage model,” said Solid Waste Services Director Stan Joseph. “It’s a simple concept using innovative technology. The bottom line is that we want to improve quality of life — and part of that is getting garbage carts off the sidewalks and away from neighbors and visitors enjoying downtown.”
Each of the new semi-underground Molok containers will hold the equivalent of approximately 20 carts, providing potential cost savings and reducing environmental impacts. Six days a week, City crews pick up the blue rolling carts twice a day. They also collect once Sunday. Businesses are required to pull the carts to the curb and back again, requiring significant staff time to manage the process twice each day which impedes pedestrians for several hours. “This should greatly reduce the overall amount of time our trucks spend on the street, a benefit for cars, pedestrians, and our downtown crew’s safety,” Joseph said.
Solid Waste Services will monitor fullness levels and handle collections, using a retrofitted knuckle-boom truck with a hook serving as a cost-effective crane to manage the large containers. The City’s Sustainability Fund, created by City Council to fund innovation and sustainability projects, provided funding to purchase the containers and modify the truck. The pilot project falls under the City’s Strategic Plan Growth & Natural Resources Objective 3: Optimize public infrastructure projects to address community resiliency, sustainability, and efficiency.
“This is an exciting collaboration between several City departments as well as the community,” Sustainability Manager Megan Anderson said. “The Sustainability Fund Committee is enthusiastic in its support of this innovative project.”
A partnership between Raleigh Arts, Transportation, and Molok North America created an opportunity to wrap the three recycling containers in artwork commissioned by three local artists: Autumn Cobeland, Lincoln Hancock, and Jermaine Powell.