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Tossing trash now trickier

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s parking meters, long a source of consternation for visitors unfamiliar with the system, have been joined by a new source of confusion: the town’s trash receptacles.

Tossing out an empty latte cup is no longer as simple as a well-aimed lob toward a wooden barrel lined with a garbage bag. Now it takes some effort.

What’s more difficult to get into the trash cans, however, is also more difficult to get back out. That’s the whole idea, explained Brian Flynn, the city’s environmental ranger. The new cans are bear-proof.

Bolted to a cement pad, the receptacles require anyone adverse to littering to reach in and unlatch the metal cover. The cover closes and relatches on its own. City workers unlock the front of the canisters with a key to replace the garbage bag inside.

“A lot of people have looked at it and thought, `what is this?’ ” Flynn said. But the receptacles come with instructions and people are catching on, he said. “At first, people put a hand in to unlatch it, but don’t press far enough to get it open.”

Aspen took its first shipment of 44 of the new trash cans last month. Forty more are on the way. In all, they cost $62,000, Flynn said. They’re manufactured by a California company.

The first one went up in front of City Hall, but the rest are being installed along city trails and in the parks.

Next year, Flynn hopes to budget enough money to buy about 30 more to replace trash barrels downtown and on the malls. The Historic Preservation Commission will have to be consulted about the design of the mall trash cans, he said.

The new cans are not truly bear-proof until they’ve been bolted to the ground. That work is ongoing, Flynn said.

The city passed a Wildlife Protection Ordinance last year that requires all containers that hold edible refuse to be bear-proof. It applies to private property owners and to the city, as well.

“We know the city had a bunch of cans that were open and needed to be taken care of,” Flynn said. “Aspen is definitely trying to set the example.

“By having those cans out in the parks, we’re not only protecting the bears, but it’s an everyday reminder,” he said. “And this year has been an overwhelming year for bears.”

This summer’s drought has depleted the natural food supply of berries and such, so black bears are foraging for garbage in town on a daily basis.

As the city and private property owners make trash containers bear-proof, the animals will turn to whatever receptacles are still accessible, like those on the malls, Flynn predicted. That makes replacing the rest of the trash cans next year critical, he said.

As for the old trash cans – wooden barrels with an open top – Flynn hopes to recycle them. He may sell them for use elsewhere or have them cut in half for use as planters.


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