To battle rat problem, city expands its trash-tech arsenal

Rats enter an overflowing dumpster in Georgetown. (Brady Holt/The Current/August 2012)

As warmer winters exacerbate the District’s rodent issues, Mayor Muriel Bowser is emphasizing the importance of proper trash management and highlighting city programs targeting rats and other vermin.

The city’s vermin control strategy takes “a comprehensive and 21st century approach to an old problem,” Bowser said in a news release on Friday — emphasizing that many of the solutions to inappropriately stored garbage make use of new technology. These include trash cans with solar-powered compactors and “smart litter bins” with sensors to alert trash crews when they’re full. The Department of Health, Department of Public Works and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer are working together to deploy 25 solar trash cans and 400 smart litter bins to “rat hotspots” around the District, according to the release.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development recently launched a grant program that helps businesses buy trash compactors to better dispose of their waste.

Bowser also reminded residents about low-tech but effective ways of reducing rodent problems: storing trash and food in containers with tight-fitting lids, and reporting issues to the city via 311. The District reported that the number of 311 requests for rodent abatement increased from about 2,300 in 2015 to more than 3,500 in 2016.