Loose Lips

Vince Gray Is Super Sorry About Supercans

Add one more person to the long list of people disappointed in how the city's botched Supercan rollout going: Vince Gray.

“I’m not happy about the way this has gone," Gray said at a morning press conference.

Gray pushed back on the idea that the Supercan replacement program, which has featured piles of abandoned cans, a "physical altercation," and the trashing of thousands of bins intended for recycling, had been accelerated to help with his ultimately failed primary bid.

“If there was some political motive, we could’ve picked 'Neighborhood X,' some particular precinct, something like that," Gray said.

Whatever the reason, emails obtained by LL through the Freedom of Information Act request show employees for both the District and Supercan contractor Toter working on a tight schedule. In November, Department of Public Works' Sybil Hammond emailed other DPW employees and described the replacement scheme as "fast-moving." In a December email to DPW's Gena Johnson, Toter employee Jim Pickett lamented that his company had to make more cans than the District initially asked for in a letter of intent because of the "compressed schedule."

The was further complicated after D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson successfully opposed an effort to pay for the Supercans by taking money out of a city trust fund meant for retirees. In another December email, Pickett complained that the financial backup after Mendelson defeated the fund move had left his company "reaching the crisis point."

DPW head William Howland, who's probably wishing right about now that he had followed other lame-duck Gray administration officials out the door, took responsibility for the $9 million program's mistakes this morning. Howland said he approved the use of trash crews to pick up unwanted cans, a move that left around 5,000 cans too compacted by trash trucks to be recycled. The lost material could roughly the District roughly $7,500 in lost rebates from Toter.

Howland said he authorized $130,000 in overtime just to get the piled-up cans off the street.

“It was whatever it took to make this story go away, which it won’t go away," Howland said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Tony
  • Lost Cause

    Another example of why home rule
    wouldn't work. From Crack Mayor to
    help themself Mayor Gray. Its all
    the graff.

  • DC=District of Corruption

    Where are DC highly paid environment staff folks? EPA might be interested in this. And the DC might still have to find another way to dispose of those plastic cans. Incinerating tons of plastic is not only dangerous because of the air pollution, hence the recyling, but it is costly. You can't dump plastic in a much cheaper landfill and the cost for incineration is high. Ask the Va. plant whether they will even take this on and at what price. This is another example of poor judgment and a lack of leadership. They should just burn our tax dollars.
    Why do we even pay these people? That $9 million Gray spent isn't the only thing disposed of ineffectively and possibly unlawfully. Finally, how many cities issue trash cans to their residents? And after paying $65 for a can, the DPW trucks frequently run over them or toss them inside the truck, so that we needed new ones. Talk about job security. Overtime for picking up trash cans that are along their overpaid route? Really?

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