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Lavallette Officials to Tackle Nagging Trash Collection Issues: ‘Robo’ or ‘No Robo?’

Trash bags in Seaside Heights, N.J. (Photo: Seaside Heights Public Works)

Trash bags in Seaside Heights, N.J. (Photo: Seaside Heights Public Works)

Lavallette officials pushed back a discussion on a potential revamp of the borough trash collection system to next month, but pledged to tackle long-standing issues on regulations in town.

At issue is the policies that should govern trash collection in a town with Lavallette’s unique characteristics. Some seasonal residents, officials say, prefer to leave their refuse out for collection in bags since they may not return to their homes for a week and do not want to leave garbage cans on the street. But sea gulls frequently rip the bags open, spreading wide swaths of trash in the road that is often carried by the wind up and down streets – and into neighbors’ yards.

“This is a perpetual issue that we deal with,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero.

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The borough code requires residents who prefer to eschew cans to use thick contractor bags instead of the more flimsy white trash bags that fit in home garbage cans. But realistically, many residents have said, the gulls always find a way to tear into the sturdier bags as well. One resident who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting of the borough council said she reminds her neighbors of the policy, and cleans up trash left outside near her home, but is hopeful officials can put a more strict system in place.

Requiring cans comes with its own problems, many argue.

“If you leave the cans out, if they’re light, they’re gone when you get those west winds,” said LaCicero.

There are no perfect solutions, officials have said, and resort communities in other areas have found varying ways to handle the issue. In nearby Long Beach Island, nearly every home has a wooden or vinyl garbage can holding pen in the front corner of their properties. The decorative corrals range from simple wooden structures to custom-made decorative pens that match the colors of one’s home. The cans remain in the pen so they are not taken by the wind, and public works crews place the cans back in the pens after collection. In other communities, including many in Florida, part-time residents pay a private company to return cans to backyards after collection.

Back in Lavallette, the borough is purchasing new garbage trucks that are compatible with a so-called “robo-can” system, like those used in Toms River and Brick townships. The large cans are placed at the curb before pickup night, lifted and emptied automatically, then placed back down. While the “robo-cans” are much heavier than smaller cans purchased at a hardware store, they are still subject to be carried by the wind, and can be expensive to replace if lost. They would also have to be left out at the curb in the proper position until collection day.

An automated recycling can from Brick Township, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

An automated recycling can from Brick Township, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A benefit of robo-cans – and prohibiting bags from being placed on the street – could come in the form of lower costs.

“With plastic bags, even though they’re plastic, they absorb moisture,” said Councilman David Finter, explaining that the borough is charged by weight to deliver trash to the Ocean County landfill. “It’s about a 10 percent increase when using plastic bags, just because of the water.”

LaCicero said he expects a full discussion to occur at a council meeting next month.

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