Supercan has found a home.
The 85-gallon two-wheel trash containers that the District of Columbia is depending on to cut costs and reduce most home garbage collections to once a week are rolling into some of the city's neighborhoods at the rate of nearly 1,000 a day.
District sanitation officials are busy delivering the once-experimental can to Ward 4's 17,350 households in northwest Washington east of Rock Creek Park. They hope to have nearly 58,000 of the dark green garbage gulpers permanently in place by early next March, at more than half of the 98,000 households served by the District.
The supercan will not be used in the innermost portion of the city in Wards 1 and 2 where population density and small alleys prohibit efficient use of the cans for about 40,000 households, officials said.
The officials said the $2.3 million supercan program, used in several other cities including Atlanta and Richmond, should pay for itself in the first full year of use, shaving about $2 million off the city's annual $8 million cost of home garbage collection.
First proposed two years ago by Mayor Marion Barry, the supercans and once-a-week collections met stiff opposition from Far Southeast residents who were to try the plan first. City employe unions also criticized the cans as cumbersome, unsafe and a threat to job security for sanitation workers.
Barry decided to hold off on the program, but authorized several test uses of the cans, and this year the city decided to go ahead with a permanent program.
"We've already got 15,000 delivered," said solid waste manager Anne Witt. She said the city ordered 60,000 of the cans that cost $35.97 each and have serial numbers registered to individual property addresses.
But Geraldine P. Boykin, executive director of District Council 20 of the American Federation of State, County and Muncipal Employees (AFSCME) that represents sanitation workers, said her group has begun distributing more than 6,000 flyers in Ward 4, urging residents to call the mayor and object to the cans.
"We were led to believe" the city wouldn't push the supercan program, said Boykin. She complained that week-old garbage is unsanitary and that children playing with the 15-pound cans may get hurt.
While Environmental Services Department Director William Johnson said no one would be laid off because of the program, Boykin said 137 workers will have to be retrained or given jobs they are not qualified to do.
City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) said her office has received few complaints about the cans that began arrving in late October.
Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), an opponent of the cans, said her committee on public service and community services will hold hearings in December on supercan. "I am unalterably opposed" to the program, said Rolark.
Rolark said the supercans would be a burden in her largely poor Far Southeast ward, in which many households are headed by women, who would have to "wrestle with those things."
A brochure describing the program is being passed out to city residents in advance of the arrival of supercan, officials said. They said elderly, infirm or other residents who may find the cans unacceptable can make alternate arrangements with the city for garbage pickups but that collections will still be made just once a week.
The city's fleet of 45 garbage trucks is being refitted with hydraulic lifts for the supercans, at a cost of $1,300 each, to limit the heavy lifting normally done by sanitation workers.