City of Aspen needs to retrofit about one-third of trashcans to conform with bear rules |

City of Aspen needs to retrofit about one-third of trashcans to conform with bear rules

A display in the city of Aspen's Bear Aware campaign advises people on what to do if they encounter a bruin. Just a short distance away, is a city trashcan, left of the recycling containers, that needs to be retrofitted to make it bear-proof.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

Only about two-thirds of the city of Aspen’s trash cans currently comply with the government’s rules on bear-proofing, according to an estimate by the director of parks and open space.

Tom Rubel said the city is trying to retrofit 30-some trash cans with new lids to make them comply.

“We’ve been trying to tweak it and get it right,” he said.

Roughly 100 of the trash cans the city has scattered around at parks and other public places have a metal cover over a latch that must be triggered to open the lid. Those Bearsaver containers meet the standards set in a city ordinance for bear-proof trash receptacles, Rubel said.

But about 30 individual trash cans in the core have lids that have proven over time to be inadequate, Rubel said. Those containers have metal caps raised a few inches over the hole of the trashcan. The caps are supposed to make the containers bear-resistant.

In addition, the commercial core has about 10 sets of three containers each that include one trash and two recycling receptacles. They were put out at the City Council’s request some number of years ago to try to promote more recycling, Rubel said. The trash containers in those sets also include only the metal lids intended to make them bear resistant.

The idea of the 30 individual trashcans and the 10 in the sets was to get something that looks attractive but is also functional, Rubel said.

The trash cans with the metal caps were effective until “three or four years ago” when the natural food supplies failed and bears were attracted to human sources of food in Aspen.

“It worked for a while, but then we had that bad year and they figured it out,” he said.

The city ultimately decided it had to do something different with the lids and consulted in February with district wildlife manager Kevin Wright, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They decided to try to retrofit new bear-proof lids on the containers. To date, about six of the new lids have been installed, leaving about 34 more trashcans requiring improvements, Rubel said. The manufacturer has been too slow delivering the other improved lids, he said.

“If they don’t get back to us quickly, we’re going to go someplace else,” Rubel said.

Wright expressed frustration on June 25 that the city was out of compliance with its own rules on some of the trash cans. He also questioned if the new lids are sturdy enough to deter a hungry bear.

Rubel said his department asked the trash-can manufacturer to build another prototype with an alternative lid. The request was turned down because of expense, he said.

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