Rehoboth Uses About 100K Plastic Trash Bags a Season!

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Kevin Williams, Rehoboth Beach public works director, provided estimates of plastic trash bag usage to Comm. Dick Byrne who chairs the city’s Environment Committee. According to those numbers, the city public works crews use around 1000 plastic bags a day during the summer in the city’s public trash cans. Assuming a 100-day season, that’s about 100,000 bags each summer.

Ocean City — which does not use plastic bags in its 600 beach trash barrels — uses a custom-built 4-wheel-drive full-size automated trash truck that allows a single driver to pick up and empty those beach trash cans. But Rehoboth Beach officials are quick to point out that Rehoboth’s beach is narrower than Ocean City’s and is often more densely populated. “Ocean City has a huge beach,” Williams explains, “where they mark out a long strip down the center of the beach where they place their cans and run the truck down at various times to empty the trash cans with the remote arm.” Ocean City does, however, use plastic trash bags in its 200 boardwalk cans.

Photo courtesy Jessica Waters, O.C. spokeswoman

In Rehoboth, officials say that it is not feasible or safe to remove trash during peak periods with large machinery. Rehoboth’s beach trash cans are positioned along the dune fence and during the day the city’s crews pull full bags and place them there for ultimate pick up after the crowds subside.

“Plastic bags are saving us thousands of dollars in labor expenses,” says Comm. Jay Lagree, who is the chair of the city’s Beach and Boardwalk Committee. “Can you imagine what it would cost to deal with garbage cans like we did before plastic bags,” he asks, noting how trash cans without liners frequently smell bad and attract flies, especially on hot summer days. Those cans would have to be cleaned frequently.

“Using unlined cans means we have to ensure that we empty the cans before they overflow — a challenging task without scheduling multiple collection times throughout the day when navigating the beach can be almost impossible,” explains Mayor Stan Mills, who previously chaired the Beach and Boardwalk Committee.

Mayor Mills too expressed concern about Rehoboth’s narrow beach when compared with Ocean City’s. “The larger truck is more of a safety concern unless used only in the early morning before crowds gather,” he points out. If Rehoboth had the beach width, he says he would entertain the use of such a truck even though Rehoboth only has about 135 trash cans on the beach.

“Continued use of the beach tractor pulling a trailer for trash collection may be the best program especially in the future if we can expand recycling to the beach,” Mayor Mills adds, “that way trash and recyclables might be able to be collected at the same time and placed in different bins on the same trailer. Use of a specialized trash truck would not work for trash and recycling collections unless separate collection schedules are maintained.”