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City Vows to Crack Down on South End Trash, but Regulations Call for Near Impossible Bag Size

The City of Boston has promised to enforce trash violations more strictly in the South End, but the bags called for on the city's website appear to reside in the domain of the Unicorn.

The City of Boston recently announced its Enhanced Trash Enforcement Initiative, in response to South Enders’ complaints about trash being strewn along streets and sidewalks following weekly pickup.

An last week said the city’s Inspectional Services Commissioner, Bryan Glascock, authorized the Code Enforcement Divsion to focus on trash violations in the South End.

The only problem is, the City of Boston’s trash bag regulations call for the garbage bag equivalent of a pink elephant.

Specifically, the trash bag regulations read as follows:

  • Black trash bags
  • Made of 1.5 mil thick plastic
  • 32 gallons or less

At first glance, these specifications seem benign enough, but as Patch reader George Hand pointed out in an email, finding bags that meet these criteria is easier said than done.

As Hand states, the majority of trash bags found at the local supermarket are manufactured with a thickness of around .9 millimeters, and bags that meet the 1.5 millimeter specification are nearly impossible to find under 32 gallons.

A search of products listed for sale on the webistes of two retailers, Stop & Shop and The Home Depot, revealed that, indeed, it is nearly impossible to fulfill the City of Boston’s trash bag regulations.

An internet search failed to yield a single example of a trash bag variety adhering to the City of Boston’s reguations, and, in the eyes of one resident at least, there is nothing wrong with the bags most people buy at supermarkets.

“For the last 20 odd years I've been using white, 12 gallon (.9 mil) draw string bags from Costco without incident,” writes Hand in an email. “They occasionally get ripped open, but I saw a heavy duty green bag in the next block torn to shreds by a bottle picker, so increased thickness is not much help.”

We were able to find bags that come close to the city’s specs, but none that actually adhered 100 percent.

While it is not clear if any residents have actually been ticketed for using subpar trash bags to date, such an occurrence would surely be met with a strong reaction.

According to the newsletter, the neighborhood has been divided into six enforcement zones, where a minimum of one code enforcement officer will ensure trash is being placed in the proper containers and left out at the proper time.

The penalty for a violation is a ticket, along with a picture of the violation in question.

According to the City of Boston’s website, all trash must be put out for collection in a heavy black or white trash bag. Recyclables must be placed in clear plastic bags or city-issued bins. Plastic bags or paper bags from grocery stores will not be accepted. Trash in boxes is also not acceptable. All boxes must be broken down and bagged or tied together, including pizza boxes.

Setting trash out for pickup in kitchen bags, grocery store bags, paper bags, cartons, or boxes is not acceptable.

Residents are encouraged to wait until the morning of pick-up to place trash on the curb, but city regulations say people may do so any time after 5 p.m. the previous day.

For more information about the City of Boston’s trash regulations, click here.

BenLaGuer April 18, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Why do the bags have to be black? Only in Boston (or Cambridge and San Francisco I guess)!
Phil Veysey April 18, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I have started to take pictures of trash pickers with my cell phone. At least they move on.
SM_bos April 18, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Phil, Great idea. Recommend sending pictures to the city. Establish the pattern. If you have iphone/Android, then use http://www.cityofboston.gov/doit/apps/citizensconnect.asp. If no smart-phone, then other options also listed on website.
BenLaGuer April 19, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Thank you Phil!
Maria Dolorico April 22, 2012 at 11:44 AM
It's also difficult to find the clear bags for recycling. Stop and Shop occasionally has them (South Bay) and Target NEVER does. Shaws in the Pru sells blue plastic recycling bags. It's all dumb.

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