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Syracuse is now closer to semi-automating its trash collection

Two black trash cans without lids sit in front of a white house with a porch.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
Trash bins sit outside houses on Madison St. Syracuse, NY, Mar. 7, 2022.

The city of Syracuse took another step Monday toward semi-automating its trash collection system. But the approvals by common councilors didn’t come without ongoing disagreements about how the plan is being rolled out.

The city is preparing to deliver large trash carts to about 6,800 residents in select neighborhoods as part of the first phase of the program. One of the big sticking points has been the feasibility of providing the carts to apartment buildings with up to 10 units. Larger complexes already pay a private hauler.

Chief operating officer Corey Driscoll Dunham told councilors that it makes more sense to limit the number of units to three or four, citing logistics and other feasibility issues.

“In terms of aesthetics, in terms of storage to reduce the number of carts just seems a better solution for our workforce and also for the residents of the area to have 20 carts out in front is going to take an enormous amount of time for our crews to empty,” Driscoll Dunham said.

She mentioned 20 carts because that’s the total that will be needed when the city adds recycling collection in future phases. She and DPW officials wanted councilors to amend the legislation to restrict the number of units they serve under the program, or give the DPW commissioner flexibility to change it as he sees fit. Councilor Pat Hogan said it should be manageable under the measures they’re authorizing.

“I feel that this this legislation, we can pass this," Hogan said. "This is an operational matter that you can follow up to talk to the people and say, do you really need the ten receptacles?”

“Whether or not they need them is not the issue," Driscoll Dunham said. "The legislation ties our hands that we have to give you 10 carts to 10 units.”

Driscoll Dunham said it’s easier to deliver more carts as needed rather than remove them if the apartment buildings don’t need one for each unit. The 96-gallon carts with wheels and attached lids hold three full sized trash bags. Under the new collection system, sanitation workers roll the carts to an arm on the truck, which lifts it and dumps the contents.

In a statement, Mayor Ben Walsh said the new system will improve service, reduce litter, and decrease worker injuries. He said he’s still concerned about the viability of continuing service to the larger apartment complexes and will work with the council to make changes in the near future.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at