Coping with the Smell of Success: Middleburg Council Eyes Options for Better Restaurant Trash Removal

With an influx of new restaurants opening in Middleburg, the Town Council is looking for a long-term solution to the trash that piles up outside each establishment.

The town provides residents and businesses with curbside trash pickup once a week, with a limited number of trash bins allowed. While this might be working for residents, it’s put a strain on a few restaurants, including the Main Street Oyster Bar, Julien’s Café and Best Thai Kitchen.

Town Planner William Moore said the oyster bar, which opened in town in October, recently had to contract with a private trash collector to make two additional pickups each week.

Best Thai Kitchen also had to pay an independent trash removal company to help out. Owner Neil Metzger said he had to contract with BAC to put a dumpster on his property because the town’s curbside trash pickup was too infrequent for the amount of garbage his restaurant was producing. He said this has cost him about $175 a month.

“There was just too much for once-a-week pickup,” he said.

Metzger is planning to open a new restaurant, Red Bar Sushi, in town next month. Because of the sushi restaurant’s tight location situated between two buildings, Metzger won’t be able to put a dumpster in the back, since garbage trucks can’t fit in the alleyway.

“We’re completely reliant on the town’s trash pickup,” he said. “We’ll be kind of forced into contracting with somebody to help us out with [trash removal].”

Although there was a dumpster on the property when Trotter’s Perk Bistro occupied that building, Moore said the property owner isn’t sure exactly how that arrangement worked. “There’s some possible challenges there,” he said.

Julien’s Café also has problems with trash removal relating to more than infrequency of pickup. Moore said because of the restaurant’s building-locked location, and because health regulations prohibit employees from carrying trash through the restaurant to the street front, Julien’s doesn’t have a proper location for trash pickup. The town has since allowed the restaurant to have its trash bins picked up on town-owned property on South Madison Street.

While Moore said this solution is meeting the café’s needs right now, he feels it isn’t the best long-term solution.

Town Council last Thursday discussed four potential trash removal solutions for restaurants: increasing the number of trash bins a restaurant can put on the street for pickup, increasing the frequency of trash pickup, working with each restaurant to find individual solutions or keeping the current system in place.

“This list is not all inclusive,” Moore said. “These are simply the options that initially seem most appropriate for Middleburg … and possible options to expand or enhance the service.”

Moore said if the town provides more trash removal services, restaurants that currently use only dumpsters might begin to rely solely on curbside pickup. He said that could become a health concern because food waste can create odors, attract vermin or spill during collection.

All council members agreed that modifying the current trash pickup service might change the way many restaurants handle their trash removal.

“Whatever we decide to do is going to alter peoples’ behaviors,” Councilman Trowbridge Littleton said. “I think we have to be very, very careful.”

The town’s contract for weekly curbside trash pickup with Con-Serv Industries currently allows restaurants to use up to four 96-gallon trash bins. That contract is up in June.

Moving ahead, the town will look at the trash removal services and practices used by other towns in the county before reconvening at the next work session on Jan. 25.

“There’s a lot of background information I think we need to understand,” Moore said.

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