City of Aspen officials are taking steps to correct the municipal government’s faulty trash cans so that bears cannot pull out garbage.
City parks department director Jeff Woods told Aspen City Council in a meeting on Monday that the department recognized some of its trash cans, which are partially open at the top and have a disc-like cover, were faulty in August. That’s when a bear grabbed the plastic bag inside the can and pulled it out along with the trash in it, Woods said.
Since then, the department stopped using plastic bags in the cans and began emptying them twice a day with an early pick-up and one around 10 p.m., he said. That effort was successful in keeping the bruins out of the trash, he said.
Last week the department decided to stop the twice-daily pick-ups and used trash bags again, thinking that bears in the area had gone into hibernation.
“That was a mistake obviously,” Woods said.
A bear was able to pull a bag of trash out of a can in front of City Hall last week. In response, the parks department will go back to using its previous methods for the next month.
The cans’ design were a part of a revamping of the city’s recycling program the municipal government instituted about 10 years ago and they didn’t become an issue until this year, he said.
“For 10 years that was fine,” Woods said of the cans. “After 10 years we finally got a bear that was bright — brighter than we are.”
The city’s ordinance says that trash cans need to be in a fully enclosed container that is reinforced to deter access by wildlife, according to city spokesperson Mitzi Rapkin. The container needs to have a sturdy lid that has a latching mechanism to prevent wildlife from accessing its contents. The container needs to be approved by either the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) as bear resistant for 90 minutes or by a city-designated official.
The city approved the cans, but Woods admitted that they could be better, he said.
“The long and the short of it is that we are looking to modify the trash cans to be more bear resistant,” Woods said. “We think it meets the code ... but we think we can do a much better job.”