Bottcher and Sanitation Commish Tisch Unveil New Anti-Rat Trash Bins

The corner bins are meant to deter trash-hungry rodents far better than NYC’s classic mesh containers. They’re also more impractical to steal. City Council Member Erik Bottcher, who represents Hell’s Kitchen, called it the “trash can of the future.”

| 17 Apr 2024 | 06:25

Purportedly rat-proof public trash cans are still coming to the corners of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, where they will be replacing the city’s current mesh bins. On April 16, local City Council Member Erik Bottcher unveiled one on that will now be stationed at 9th Ave. & 43rd St., which he called part of the “first tranche of many” in his district. He also pointedly described the bin as the “trash can of the future,” a phrase that has been stuck to it by others.

NYC Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch seemed pleased with that moniker. “As everybody knows, for way too long, the city has had these gross mesh litter baskets. You can see everything inside of them. They leak ooze because they have so many holes, and they were designed that way,” she said. Rank-and-file sanitation workers in attendance seemed to be in agreement with her.

More than just being disgusting though, Commissioner Tisch noted, mesh bins are “a feasting ground for rats.” While she recognized that the classic bins are “understandably iconic,” she then claimed that the new bins would be part of the “trash revolution,” which has become something of a slogan for her and rat-hating mayor Eric Adams.

Indeed, she said she believed that the new bins would become a “new icon” of NYC sanitation. In fact, she said she was looking forward to swapping out all 23,000 NYC litter baskets with the newer model.

The big unveiling soon after these remarks, with Council Member Bottcher and Commissioner Tisch lifting what appeared to be a black velvet wrap off the new bin. Cheering followed, some of it from around-the-corner neighbors who had stopped walking their dogs to view the proceedings.

Commissioner Tisch couldn’t resist showing off the new can to spectators, and gave an impromptu demonstration of how it worked. Consisting of a concrete base and a removable “insert” for trash-collecting sanitation workers, the bottom of the can has higher-up holes “that aren’t big enough for rats,” she said.

”The beauty of this can–and there’s a lot of beauties of this can–is that these inserts are super cheap. If you steal the insert, we have so many of them,” she added.

It wasn’t an offhand comment; mesh receptacle theft has been more or less a fact of NYC life for decades. A 1978 report in The New York Times pointed out that 5,000 mesh cans were being stolen a year. An experiment that utilized 470-pound bins was quickly abandoned, partially because they were too heavy for effective garbage collection, even for the sanitation agency that bills itself as “New York’s Strongest.” The thefts continued well into the 20th century, with NBC News’s I-Team reporting on a spree of 2018 bin thefts in Manhattan.

The design for the reinforced cans was decided on that year, incidentally or not, via a “Better Bin” contest that was hosted by the DOS. The studio Group Projects took the cake. Yet Commissioner Tisch said that the winning bin model had been sitting on the shelf until 2023, hence the late and ongoing current-day implementation of the new receptacles. Her tenure at the DOS began in 2022.

With the demonstration of the replacement can’s mechanics over, there was nothing to do for onlookers except gather around it for a group photo, before it became full of trash.