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Raleigh Pilots Underground Trash Program

Artist's rendering of how the Molok waste collection system will look in Raleigh.
City of Raleigh

The City of Raleigh is testing out a new way to collect trash and recycling.

A year-long pilot program aims to get roll carts off the sidewalks downtown. Instead, garbage, mixed recycling, and cardboard will be collected in large underground cylinders. Six of the cylinders are being installed at the corner of Wilmington and Hargett streets this week.

Inside the cylinders, materials will be collected in industrial-strength bags, much like a giant wastebin. Officials estimate each one can hold the equivalent of 20 roll carts worth of garbage or recycling. Sanitation workers will monitor their levels and empty them using a garbage truck specially modified to work as a crane.

A modified garbage truck acts as a crane to empty the full containers.
Credit Molok
A modified garbage truck acts as a crane to empty the full containers.

The partially buried containers are a product of the Finnish firm Molok. They're used throughout Europe, but Raleigh officials say this is the first city in the nation to adopt the underground storage model.

They hope this will cut down on the need for garbage trucks to make stops downtown, and improve walkways for pedestrians.

Garbage carts were identified as the top concern in a 2018 downtown cleanliness survey.

Downtown businesses that want to participate can volunteer to give up their carts and test out the new collection system during its year-long pilot.

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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