The future of Bigbelly and bamboo in Montclair ended up on the agenda for discussion at the Township Council conference meeting on Tuesday night.

Montclair deployed 40 of the Bigbelly units, solar trash compactors, in the downtown business district in February, and the council got a report on how they have worked out at its meeting. Based on that update, the local governing body asked Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford to prepare a bid to buy more trash compactors.

Two officials from Needham, Massachusetts-based Bigbelly – regional account manager Joseph Nardello and regional sales director Rick Gaudette – appeared at the council meeting with statistics. So far the initial 40 units have collected 24 tons of waste and are averaging five days each to fill up, with the average trash collection five times a month, according to Nardello.

The Bigbelly receptacle at 21 Church St. is getting the largest volume of trash, filling up roughly every day, he said. Montclair officials get alerts when a Bigbelly is 80 percent full and ready for pick-up, cutting down the number of trips that municipal sanitation workers have to make and reducing overtime costs, Nardello said.

Mayor Robert Jackson and Deputy Mayor Robin Schlager both deemed the Bigbelly rollout a success.

“It looks so much better than the open garbage cans,” Jackson said. “It almost, I think to some people, makes it cool to throw away their garbage … To me the downtown looks cleaner since we put them in.”

Schlager said that now there are no more unsightly overflowing trash receptacles in downtown, adding that she had recently seen Bigbelly units during trips to New Orleans and Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Bigbelly has mapped out 30 potential new locations for its units in the South End, the Upper Montclair business district, Walnut Street and Bloomfield Avenue.

But the company will have to bid to do the next stage of installation, just as it did on the first go-around. Last year Bigbelly came in with the lowest bid, $72,500, to install and service the first units in Montclair.

In another discussion Tuesday, Schlager said that she will be sending council members sample ordinances from other municipalities that ban or restrict the planting of bamboo. The issue was brought to her attention by one of her Second Ward constituents, according to Schlager. A number of New Jersey towns, including Old Tappan and Lodi, have either passed such regulations or are considering them.

“I was on the phone with this gentleman for a very long time, and I really felt his plight,” she said. “It’s [bamboo] so invasive, and literally the only way to get rid of it is to cement it. The shoots just germinate.”

Schlager also suggested that Township Arborist Steve Schuckman speak to the council about the issue.

Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller said that the problems caused by bamboo had come up at meetings of the Township Environmental Commission, “basically in terms of it really being a nuisance and difficult to control.”


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