Baltimore to buy trash cans for all households for rat control

Mayor to expand trash can program to help control rats, reduce Baltimore city worker injuries.

All households in Baltimore will be given a huge, durable trash can on wheels under a $10 million plan Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Monday to better control the city's rat population and help prevent sanitation worker injuries.

The city expects to deliver the trash cans — which will be emblazoned with the city seal — by early next year. The 64-gallon receptacles will come with two wheels, a tight-fitting lid and a tracking device.

Rawlings-Blake said she wants to build on the success of a pilot program launched a year ago that provided more than 9,000 trash cans to residents in Belair-Edison and the Mondawmin area. Calls for rat extermination dropped by nearly 75 percent, she said. And she said fewer workers were injured lifting trash cans, though she did not provide figures.

"The results of the pilot confirmed what we thought: Well-designed, well-built trash cans are easy for citizens to use and are easier for our solid-waste crews to handle," the mayor said.

There will be no cost to residents, Rawlings-Blake said. The cans will be assigned to each house that has curbside waste collection and will remain the property of the city.

George Johnson III, president of the Belair-Edison Community Association, was among residents who got a trash can under the pilot program. He said he likes that the receptacles are on wheels, come with attached lids and are big enough to fit about four kitchen trash bags.

And he can name another reason he's grateful for the program: People have stopped stealing his trash can.

"I had a trash can like that that I bought. It cost $90, and somebody stole it," Johnson said. "Getting a new one for free was awesome. People complain about the city, but they got this one right."

Rawlings-Blake said officials still have to select a vendor for the 210,000 cans. City garbage trucks will need to be retrofitted with lifts to collect the containers. She said she expects to offset the cost through savings in the city's rat abatement and workers compensation programs.

Public Works Director Rudolph S. Chow said providing trash cans for city residents will better contain waste, reduce litter and keep neighborhoods cleaner.

"Cans provided by the city do help keep trash properly stored and the use of municipal cans across the city gives us the best tool we could have to combat rats and keep our communities clean," Chow said.

Washington launched a similar program about 20 years ago, giving its residents 96-gallon trash cans. San Francisco and Charlotte, N.C., also provide municipal trash cans.

In other business, Rawlings-Blake put forward a proposal to make it a crime to be in possession of animal-fighting paraphernalia.

The legislation, introduced Monday in the City Council, is intended to help police and animal control officers file charges against people involved in animal fighting. By criminalizing possession of the paraphernalia, the authorities can charge those involved in the crime even if there are no animals present when they enter a location used for fighting.

Paraphernalia include "breaking sticks" that are placed in a dog's mouth behind its molars to break the dog's grip on another animal or an object, breeding stands that immobilize female dogs and mills that rotate while securing a small animal that is kept out of the dog's grasp.

"Animal fighting is not only cruel to animals, but we know that it is associated with other illegal and often violent activity," Rawlings-Blake said. "Prohibiting the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia will help eliminate this vile practice from our city and make Baltimore safer and healthier."

Possession could lead to a $1,000 penalty and 90 days in jail.

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