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City Hall eyes hi-tech trash bins; some are skeptical

Currently the city has hundreds of black metal trash bins downtown. Currently the city has hundreds of black metal trash bins downtown.

New Orleans, La. -- Keeping the French Quarter clean is always a priority for city officials. Now Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration wants to go more hi-tech with some city-owned trash bins, ahead of the Super Bowl. 

The city has more than 1,000 receptacles with over 700 of them placed in the French Quarter and the downtown area.

"We have so much garbage that is put in those here in the Quarter because unfortunately even our residents put their garbage in those cans, which they're not supposed to do," said Blaine Dorr, a resident in the French Quarter.

Last month, City Hall sought bids from companies interested in providing solar-powered trash bins that will also compact garbage on the spot.

The administration believes using the automated trash bins in the Vieux Carre and downtown area would save the city money because trash would not have to be collected as often.

Some other cities with the trash compactors have touted cost savings.  

According to the city's request for bids, it is seeking 392 solar-powered trash bins.

In the French Quarter, there are skeptics.  "We have high volume and it would have to be proven to me before I could say that's a great idea and that it would work," said Chuck Robinson of Napoleon's Itch Bar on Bourbon Street.

Some residents said, with the level of trash left behind in the Quarter, not even modern innovations can significantly reduce the need for trash collection.

"They're still going to have to come out every day and sometimes twice a day, even with the compactor," Dorr stated.

"We're a little nervous that this project is proceeding at this pace without any of the organizations," said Robert Watters, vice-president of the French Quarter Business Association.

Bids for the bins were opened at City Hall Thursday. The Landrieu administration said three bids were received.

"We found out that in Boston these containers were used and they cost $6,000 a piece, which means that the 392 in New Orleans are going to cost around $2.4 million," Watters continued.

City officials did not furnish information on how much they expect the bins to cost.

District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer represents the French Quarter.  While she said she has not pored over the administration's request for bids, she did not slam the idea of modernizing trash collection.

"We have to have a more creative approach to how we handle and recycle trash, especially for large functions. I think this is a good first step," Palmer said by telephone.

The city said in 2011 it tested two of the solar-powered units in the French Quarter and it said that collections decreased from 14 times a week to 3.5 times a week, and that there was no overflowing of trash bins as a result.

"If the units work, great.  But solar-operated, batteries... that sounds real sophisticated for something as human as trash," said Robinson.

The city's bid specifications require the trash compactors to withstand two feet of water and winds of 75 miles per hour. Sensors would notify city workers when the bins are full.

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