City looks to expand Dumpster provisions

Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2003

Juneau's plastic Dumpster lids could be a thing of the past if the Juneau Assembly approves a rewrite of the city's garbage ordinance.

Bear-law changes

• Metal lids on Dumpsters would be required citywide.

• The city could apply for an administrative search warrant to search multiple outdoor garbage cans in a neighborhood.

• Garbage cans would need a tight lid that will stay on if the can is knocked over. The provision is intended to thwart dogs and ravens.

• The city wouldn't have to give 48 hours' notice before issuing a violation.

City staff members have proposed several revisions to an existing law designed to limit bear and garbage problems in Juneau's neighborhoods. The changes should make the law easier to understand and enforce, according to City Attorney John Corso.

One major change would require that all Dumpsters have a metal lid or be placed in a secure enclosure. The law now applies to containers that have been raided by bears before, are smelly, are used by restaurants, or are in a city-designated "bear problem area."

Photographer Pat Costello, who advocated for a citywide plastic lid ban last year, said the flimsy lids are an invitation for bears to eat garbage.

No area of Juneau is immune from Dumpster-diving bears, Costello said Friday. And bears stymied by metal lids in one part of town will go elsewhere to find containers with easy access, he added.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do in terms of the metal lids," he said. "There's no question that every location in Juneau where a Dumpster could be is adjacent to bear habitat."

Last year, Assembly members said they wanted to strengthen lids in problem spots first.

The current lid law applies to about 250 trash containers in Juneau, said Maria Gladziszewski, a special projects officer for the city.

"About 250 have metal lids or are inside an enclosure," she said. "It's largely done. There may be a few here and there that may not be done. It's certainly fewer than 10."

The city estimates another 200 to 250 containers would need to be secured if the law is revised, she said.

Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, which this month took over trash collection in Juneau from Waste Management, is comparing its Dumpster data against the city's, General Manager Glen Thompson said.

"We need to do our own estimate of bear lids," he said. "Part of the bottleneck is lead time on the lids. T&S Welding (of Juneau) is fabricating them. We do plan to work with the city and make things happen."

Last year, it cost between $11 and $23 a month to rent a metal lid, according to the city and Waste Management. The cost to purchase a metal lid was between $200 and $500.

In another proposed change to the law, people would need to secure the top of their trash cans with a tight lid, locking handles or a cord. The provision is meant to keep dogs and ravens from spreading trash around neighborhoods, Gladziszewski said. The garbage law doesn't allow Juneau residents to put unsecured garbage cans outside until 4 a.m. on pickup day.

The rewrite also would allow the city to obtain an administrative search warrant to look inside garbage cans. The city was having trouble enforcing the ordinance because it couldn't check inside some cans without getting a criminal warrant first, Corso said. A judge would need to issue the administrative warrant.

"The idea is to conduct a minimally intrusive search for a specific purpose, often with a publicly noticed search time and area," Corso said. "It could be an entire neighborhood, but limited to porches and outside cans."

Another change would delete a provision in the garbage law that requires police to provide 48 hours' notice before issuing a violation, Corso said.

The Assembly's Planning and Policy Committee will review the changes at a noon meeting Tuesday in Assembly chambers. Time has been set aside for public comment.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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