Dear PoP – Not so Supercans

“Dear PoP,

What is the origin of the DC version of a supercan? This is one of the most boneheaded designs I have ever seen. It is extremely top heavy (height to width ratio with most of the base being wheels), only takes small width tall kitchen bags and will only stand on completely flat surfaces.

The old regular trash cans worked fine and these seem to offer no benefit to the DPW workers accept the lids cannot come off.

I have never been a fan of these, but with the wind this year……………….I want Blood!”

Hahaha, it’s a very good question. Any engineers out there think think this is actually a useful/good design? When did these cans go into circulation? Anyone remember what was used before these?

39 Comment

  • Automation.

    Only narrow kitchen bags?????
    I guess my can is more super than yours.

  • And then there’s those rat-sized holes gnawed around the edges of the lids

  • Supercans made a HUGE improvement in DC! They came about in the 80’s under Mayor Barry. Before supercans, it was the resident’s responsibility to keep garbage containers which were mostly made of metal in those days. Very quickly they’d get dented up and the tops would cease to fit tightly. A lot of folks didn’t have any garbage cans and most alleyways were strewn with garbage.

    Supercans have that metal bar in the lower front because the garbage trucks were equipped with a mechanism that would engage the bar and flip them into the truck. Nowadays most sanitation workers just pick the garbage out of the supercans.

    • i agree. one of the biggest contributions made by Mayor-for-Life Barry.

      the metal bar is in fact designed so that the workers can place the supercan at the rear of the truck, engage the lifter and have the machine flip the can up and into the rear of the trash truck. the lid opens and allows all the garbage to spill out into the truck.

      the blue recycling bins operate using the same mechanism.

      these cans are indeed quite top heavy and difficult to move around. prone to tipping over. and the lids eventually do get broken off.

      it would be nice if DPW was more vigilant about identifying and replacing broken supercans…or at least more responsive to residents’ requests to replace cans when needed.

  • My guess is they were designed to be used with a “claw” on the trash truck.

    Maybe DC didn’t have enough money for those trucks???

  • probably not the right thread but i have been waiting for a new (not super) can since november. this is probably normal, isn’t it????? has anyone ever actually gotten a replacement? mine got stolen…

    DPW has told me I am not allowed to buy my own… and they ain’t picking up the bags any more either…

    so i had a brilliant idea, instead of a can we should all just be issued downloadable stickers. that way when someone steals the can we just buy a new one and slap on stickers. if you are poor and don’t want to buy a new one then you can of course wait…

    • houseintherear

      I never got one sent to my new address. So I took one from the abandoned house down the street, figuring I’d deliver them my new one when it came. Two years later, countless reminder calls, and I still don’t have a new can. (But I kept the abandoned house can because I’m a jerk.)

    • Hell, I have neighbors who’ve bought city-like cans at Home Depot and those get emptied. Make sure they have wheels.


    • I requested a recycling one from the city and it got delivered pretty promptly – I think a matter of days/a week or two. They just left it on the front porch and I moved it to our alley. Haven’t had any problems.

      • When I moved to Petworth, the house I bought had been unoccupied for years and there was no can (perhaps stolen by houseintherear?). At any rate, I called DPW and was told that because my house was not new construction, I would have to pay almost $100 for a new can. So instead, I promptly drove to Home Depot and bought a $20 “supercan” which has been emptied weekly without any questions for 5 years.

    • saf

      They have run out of replacements, and don’t have money to buy more (per Bill Howland at the last ANC 4C meeting.)

  • I got a new can – took about a month, but no problem.

    Regarding the design, I find them to be decent for their size. I mean, I can easily drag both my garbage can & recycling can, one in each hand (as long as I turn them around first) and they are decently stable.

  • I got a new one when I bought a house, and then a replacement one, within two weeks each time. Call 311.

  • We have the smaller cans, but that photo above (times about fifty) is what our alley looks like after a light breeze. Oh, but with trash and recycling all over the place. They really are prone to falling over at any hint of disturbance.

    The design, though, doesn’t seem any different than any other city in which I’ve lived.

  • I wish the DC government label the new trash cans they give out to homeowners with the home’s address so that homeowners will become responsible for their own trash cans, like taking in the empty cans to their yard instead of leaving it in the alley; trash cans left in the alley often are run over by cars, damaging the cans, blocking the path, etc. I even suggest the financially strapped DC government to fine people for not putting away their trash cans in their yard after certain hours of trash collection. Tired of getting out of my car to remove wind blown cans blocking my path to my yard.

    • Or maybe buy a can of spray paint and label them yourselves?

      • Oh Victoria, quick to respond without really reading my post. I forgive you. If you read my post, however, you would have guessed that I am the type of person who would do exactly what you suggested.

    • ah

      If they take your advice, and there is any justice, you will receive the first citation for this, either because you got home late from work or because they confused your neighbor’s cans with yours, or they jus decided to make it up.

      • “…decided to make it up.”

        ha. that’s how the parking enforcers roll.

      • “… and there is any justice,..”
        What have I done? I just suggested a motivation factor, a fine, to encourage people to collect their trash cans in a reasonable amount of time. some folks in my hood leave their trash cans outside their fence 7 days a week.

        • ah

          In pirinciple I agree with you. And in fact I understand Dpw issues fines for this already. But I just don’t trust Dpw any more than the res of city government to issue most of the fines for actual violations as opposed to something bogus.

      • This actually happened to our house. A neighbor left their recycling bin out front of our place and a few weeks later, we received a fine for $75, with a photo of our place with the bin in front. After calling them, verifying that the bin number is not registered to our house (turns out our actual one is nowhere to be found), we’re still arguing with them regarding the fine.

  • The all blow over in the wind regardless. Some of my neighbors have 5 in their back yard… Amazing how much trash people create. With the heavy winds we’ve been having there is pure chaos in our back alley. Our trash days are ever changing as well. One trash truck ran over a can of soup one day and it sprayed all over my car. I heart DC.

  • There are actually two sizes of District-issued trash cans. The smaller ones are the same size as the recycling bin in this photo, and are issued to people with 2x/week trash collection. The two times mine was stolen or lost it was replaced with a couple of weeks of requesting a replacement.

    Supercans are technically the larger ones, for homes with once a week collection, and the size shown in the photo. I saw a DPW notice a while ago (could have easily been a year or more) about how they were behind on filling requests for replacement Supercans.

    The small ones are fine for twice weekly collection, except that the OP is right that it can be hard to stuff a full bag of trash in there because they’re narrow. My complaint is that my recycling bin actually doesn’t hold a week’s worth of recycling, and we’re only a 2-person household.

  • Ummmm… not to get off topic but are other readers seeing my picture on the comment above? Because when I commented on a blog post about trash when I really should be doing other things like playing with the child seen in the photo, I meant for it to be relatively anonymous….

    And I’m not even sure where POP’s blog got the photo from because it’s not my current Facebook profile picture.

    This time posting with a made-up email address to see if that solves the problem.

    • yep, I see your photo in the post above, but not in this one… I use the same e-mail address as my facebook account, but it doesn’t pull in any of my photos. Do you supply a Website??

      OTOH, the picture is so small that I can only tell that you have on a green shirt (I think?).

    • yup, we see you and your child in the original posting. thank god it was a g-rated picture.

      if it makes you feel any better, my work email (using MS Outlook 2007) displays my linkedin profile picture in the mail heading when I send messages to people in the office. the IT team doesn’t know how to fix it. good thing i look great in my linkedin photo.

    • I do see you and your kid in the above post. Hubbie and I are more paranoid than most of our friends about posting pictures of our kids that could get disseminated in any way online, even through Facebook or school website photos. Hubbie thinks a predator will somehow track down our location and pull an Elizabeth Smart on our (admittedly beautiful) kids.

    • Somehow the picture was linked to use of my Gmail address. The powers that be a Google know way too much about me, but I’ll be making up my email address from now on when I post on POP.

  • I’m moving here from VA and am pathetically excited about our new DC-issued trash cans, mainly because the recycling bins are here appropriately sized. We generate more recyclables than trash, and those tiny rectangular bins that they give you in the suburbs just weren’t cutting it!

    • some VA jurisdictions, notably Alexandria, have recycle bins like the supercans, but smaller. Part of the reason apparently was to try to boost recycling rates, b/c the city was missing out on revenue from the materials.

  • We got a second tall kitchen garbage can and started using it strictly for recycling. Cardboard, recyclable plastic, newspaper, cans and (burp) beer bottles beer bottles beer bottles. We now put out a LOT less trash than we used to. I felt like an ecoterrorist for years, it’s good to come over from the dark side.

  • My neighbors just solve all these problems by dumping their garbage into my condo building’s bin. Nevermind that we have to pay for our trash collection – on top of our DC taxes – or that the bins then inevitably fill up so our residents can’t use them. I mean god forbid they have to deal with their supercans.

    Bitter? Me?

  • I lived in Baltimore one summer and decidedly non-super metal trash cans in my alley for trash. The lids only fit loosely on top so I can only imagine that racoons and rats could easily get in if they wanted to. I always assumed that the lids on DC cans were designed to be critter-proof

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