Talking Trash: New garbage cans proposed for downtown St. Augustine

Board approves new bins for St. George Street, subject to how they look

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Garbage cans tend to be smelly, but the city of St. Augustine believes some in the historic downtown area are simply too odorous.

New trash cans are an option, but some think they would spoil the authentic look that makes the nation's oldest city a tourist destination.

There was some "trash talk" Thursday when the Public Works deputy director went before the city's Historical Architectural Review Board and was granted approval for new trash cans lining the historic downtown streets -- subject to how they look. 

The proposed trash cans will be more economically efficient than the current models, but the board worries they will dirty the city's authenticity. 

During the annual Nights of Lights this time of year, St. George Street is flooded with families eager to see one of the top holiday displays, which means a lot of food and drinks get dumped in, on and around the trash cans. It can become quite smelly. 

St. George Street is currently lined with 46 trash cans, but Public Works Deputy Director Todd Grant has proposed replacing them with 10 pairs of a larger trash can that's paired with a recycling bin -- 20 bins total along St. George Street.

"As you can see, they become collectors for gum, ashtrays. They overflow," Grant said. "What I've proposed is a solar-compacting trash can."

The problem is the proposed trash cans, which cost $4,000 to $6,000 apiece, don't match the historic decor of downtown.

Grant has suggested wrapping them in whatever design the Historical Architectural Review Board wants -- say, a faux wood like the current bins, which are actually plastic, or a pretty picture wrap. 

But some residents stood up at Thursday's meeting to say the idea stinks.

"This is a very serious decision. Our historical city is looking for authenticity," one woman said. "I don't believe this is what St. George Street needs. You four people are going to change that."

After a reluctant start, the board approved the new trash bins, which are subject to further approval on the number of cans and how they are wrapped.

The current trash cans can be easily rummaged through. But the new trash cans would be 11 inches taller, and they would fit five to eight times more trash. 

The new Bigbelly trash cans compact the trash, and have a solar panel on top with Bluetooth technology that triggers an alert when the can is full.

"I really appreciate the board's approval with the first step of at least approving that type of trash can," Grant said. "So by employing these different trash cans, hopefully I can keep it cleaner, more efficient, less greenhouse gases -- that whole thing."

Grant said he's also working on getting refillable water stations placed around town. 

As far as the rest of downtown St. Augustine, Grant said he's starting with the area with the highest foot traffic and with the biggest issue of litter and trash overflow. He said the old trash cans around the rest of town are fine for now.