Temple continues to explore underground storage options; a growing number of the city's neighborhood plans recommend hidden waste bins.
The alley between Main and 2nd streets in Downtown Temple is lined with dumpsters. The city is considering an underground refuse system that will be more pleasing to the eye and eliminate vermin, odors from rotting food and dumpster diving. David Stone photo
A collection truck equipped with a special crane in Kissimmee, Fla., lifts an underground bin out of the ground for dumping. Kissimmee uses a side-by-side system for trash and recycling pickup. Los Angeles is considering an underground system in its restaurant districts for storing discarded food scraps. Courtesy photo
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
A growing number of cities in America and around the world are taking out the trash in a unique way — they are storing waste underground until it is picked up and taken to landfills and recycling centers.
In places such as Clearwater, Fla.; Barcelona, Spain; and Ennis, Texas, dumpsters and trash bins are disappearing from sight, and the advantages have caught the attention of Temple city officials. The growing technology may eventually find its way to local streets and alleyways.
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According to Jay Wheeler, CEO and president of Florida-based Underground Refuse Systems, stashed trash offers many advantages over traditional dumpsters.
“Underground systems are better looking, they declutter alleyways, they are rat proof and they do a much better job of containing odors,” Wheeler said.
“They can be used for trash, recycling, food and organic waste, and they eliminate dumpster fires, dumpster diving and litter blowing out of the containers into the neighborhood,” he said.
Since garbage in an underground bin is not accessible from street level, these systems eliminate the practice of dumpster diving for food and shelter by the homeless. A street woman recently told Our Town Temple that she routinely sleeps in Downtown dumpsters during the winter to keep warm.
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While underground garbage storage systems are new in America, the technology has been around for at least two decades.
“These systems have been in place for more than 20 years in Europe — Disneyland Paris, Florence and Milan all do this, and it’s catching on in the US,” Wheeler said.
Kissimmee, Fla., has been using Wheeler’s system since 2017. The city began with underground containers in its downtown area, but has now expanded service throughout much of the city and is in use at a 250-unit apartment complex.
This year, Clearwater introduced an underground system on local beaches, and the Philadelphia Phillies have introduced a similar system at the baseball team’s spring training stadium.
According to Wheeler, Ennis launched the first phase of its system in January with two underground units. The city has already expanded its program and plans to eventually have 16 bins below street level.
Other Texas cities in the Dallas and Austin areas are considering underground trash systems, including Garland and McKinney.
“The exposure from the Ennis system has other Texas cities inquiring about our products,” Wheeler said.
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Temple is currently developing new neighborhood plans for 18 districts, and the city is considering alternate ways of storing waste, including one method that incorporates the “now you see it, not you don’t” approach.
Underground trash systems keep popping up in plan recommendations. So far, the systems are being considered in the Downtown and TMED districts, and could be implemented in areas of West Temple.
The TMED district is home to some of Temple’s major institutions such as Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, Temple College, the VA center, McLane’s Children’s Hospital and Temple Mall.
“This is something we are looking into,” said David Olson, an assistant Temple city manager. “We have visited Ennis, Clearwater and Kissimmee to see what they are doing. They all took a slightly different approach, but there’s no argument that the system cuts down on smells.”
“This first came up while developing our Downtown neighborhood plan,” Olson said. “But it has spread since then and is now being considered in multiple plans.”
Olson pointed out that Downtown Temple has a lot of restaurants, and that means a lot of discarded food in dumpsters. In the Texas heat, that means food that is rotting, creating odors and attracting unwanted visitors.
“We wanted to see what’s out there, but the Underground Refuse System seems solid,” Olson said. “We are just gathering information at this point — there are a lot of considerations.”
One of the biggest considerations is price. An underground system would require a specialized garbage truck outfitted with a crane, crew training, and the trash containers.
According to Wheeler, underground units hold 6.5 cubic cards of waste — 22 traditional 30-gallon street containers can fit into one below-ground bin. Above ground, there is a small box for depositing garbage into the bin below — the deposit box looks similar to a newspaper vending machine but slightly larger.
Each box has a connector on top where a crane can attach and lift the entire container out of the ground and empty its contents into a garbage truck using a belly-dump triggered by the sanitation crew.
“Ennis, Clearwater and Kissimmee all have their own specialized trucks outfitted with hook lift, compactor and crane,” Wheeler said, adding that his systems include “smart sensor” technology that notifies the city when a unit needs to be emptied.
According to Olson, garbage trucks currently used by Temple cost about $250,000 new, and a truck outfitted for emptying underground bins would cost about the same.
“There are arguments to be made — we have to replace trucks every five to seven years anyway,” he said.
Olson said Temple would need a minimum of 13 to 16 underground bins to justify having a route for a specialized truck. Most of the bins likely would be in the Downtown area and perhaps around Temple College, the VA and Baylor Scott & White.
Wheeler said each underground bin would cost Temple $15,000 plus another $1,500 for shipping to Central Texas. That doesn’t include constructing drainable concrete “holes” where the units would be placed. And, as Olson pointed out, there are other considerations.
“There are unknowns when you start digging holes in Downtown alleys,” he said.
Studies would be needed to determine locations of all utilities and to determine how installing the underground bins might affect existing structures.
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While most cities are looking into underground refuse systems for garbage, others are exploring a mix of uses.
Kissimmee, Fla., is using the system for garbage and its recycling program, according to city spokesperson Melissa Zayas-Moreno.
“This approach is not only more aesthetically attractive than a traditional dumpster, it’s also cleaner and environmentally greener,” she said. “With a closed-hatch system that keeps trash from falling out and littering our streets, the underground garbage and recycling system is setting the stage for an even more beautiful city.”
“The ease of use and convenient locations have encouraged our residents to recycle more,” Zayas-Moreno said. “In the short time these underground units have been in operation, our sanitation department has reported that recycling units are regularly full and have to be collected twice a week.”
Wheeler said the city of Los Angeles is exploring underground systems for disposing of food waste in areas where there are an abundance of restaurants.
“In an area with multiple restaurants, this system can really reduce odors and rodent issues,” he said.
An Ennis, Texas, waste management crew empties an underground trash bin. The bins have a belly-dump that can be triggered from inside the truck. Each bin, such as the one hoisted above this truck, can hold the equivalent of 22 30-gallon garbage cans. Courtesy photo
MONDAY | APRIL 18, 2022
today’s best bet
Carvin Jones blues and rock show live at The Beltonian Theatre. 8 p.m.
To include your events in What’s Happening, email information to OurTownTemple@gmail.com. Photos are welcome and will be used as space permits!
How long was the Arcadia Theater open in Temple?
ANSWER IS AT END OF TODAY’S ISSUE
On this day in 1871, the state legislature approved a bill providing for the organization of the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Texas A&M University) and appropriating $75,000 for the construction of academic buildings and suitable accommodations. A committee selected a site near Bryan, now known as College Station, following the donation of 2,416 acres by local citizens. The college, the oldest public institution of higher education in the state, opened in October 1876 with 106 students and a faculty of six under President Thomas S. Gathright. By the year 2000, the College Station campus was the fifth-largest university in the nation, with more than 44,000 students, and the Texas A&M University System included nine schools across the state.
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On this day in 1952, JP Richardson Jr., better known as "The Big Bopper," married Adrianne "Teetsie" Fryou. Richardson, a Beaumont deejay, recorded for Pappy Daily’s D Records and scored a rock-and-roll hit with his song "Chantilly Lace" in 1958. He also penned chart-toppers for George Jones with "White Lightning" and Johnny Preston with "Running Bear." The Bopper wowed audiences with his colorful zoot suits and flamboyant performances but kept his marriage secret to preserve his showy image to fans. He featured "Chantilly Lace" in a pioneering video production in 1958 and coined the term "music video." The Bopper recorded some 21 of his own songs -- many of which were regarded as novelty tunes. After a performance on the "Winter Dance Party" tour on the night of Feb. 2, 1959, Richardson, suffering from the flu, switched places on the bus with Waylon Jennings to instead take a charter flight with musicians Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens to the tour’s next destination. The ensuing plane crash that killed all passengers shocked grieving fans on a day that was immortalized as the "Day the Music Died."
OurTownTemple@gmail.com | (254) 231-1574
TODAY’S TEMPLE TRIVIA ANSWER: After opening on Dec. 2, 1928, the Arcadia was home to vaudeville and silent films, and within a couple years, it began showing talkies. As time went on, the big screen played a larger role and when the theater closed Dec. 2, 1978 — exactly 50 years after it had opened — the Arcadia was an aging cinema.
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