By Rachel Christian
Out of sight, out of mind. That’s the idea behind an underground trash system now in place across downtown Kissimmee.
What’s new: On Thursday, 37 new underground trash bins in various sizes
were delivered to the Kissimmee sanitation department.
Jody Kirkendall, sanitation superintendent, said the units would be assembled and stored on-site for future businesses interested in signing on.
Since 2018 began, six new units were installed at various locations throughout downtown.
The city doesn’t promote or sell the product directly, but as the country’s sole Underground Refuse Systems agent, Kissimmee has become the main demo site for interested municipalities who travel to see it in action.
The city has given demonstrations to Orlando International Airport, officials from Denton, Texas and a delegation from Puerto Rico. Representatives from Clearwater have visited Kissimmee three times in recent months to learn more about the system, Kirkendall said.
The city also began piloting a new technology for the system in April – a sensor that tells the facility’s owner when the trash container is full.
How it works: The portion of the trash bin above ground has a modern rounded look with a trash door that leads to underground bins in 11-foot-deep vaults.
A specially-designed, $424,000 truck attaches a crane to a bell housing on the top of the bin, then hoists and dumps the bin into the truck, which has a compactor. The bin is then lowered back into the concrete housing in the street or sidewalk.
A concrete lip and special drainage helps avoid ground water contamination, Kirkendall said.
Background: The city’s sanitation department partnered with locally-based Underground Refuse Systems last year and debuted it behind City Hall in April 2017.
The city wanted to clean up the look of overflowing dumpsters and eyesore trash cans strewn around Pleasant Street near the Toho Square and Mosaic developments, officials said.
Kissimmee was already exploring alternative garbage options when long-time Osceola County School Board member Jay Wheeler approached them with details of a new business venture.
Wheeler first learned about underground trash disposal while visiting Italy a few years ago. He then became the first American distributor for the technology and Kissimmee the first domestic government agency to partner with him.
Both Kirkendall and Wheeler said they have been busy lately.
Wheeler took his company full-time last year. He chose not to run for re-election on the Osceola County school board in November, allowing him even more time to grow the company. Wheeler said he is participating in public works trade shows and conventions across the country to spread the word.
What’s next: Kirkendall said the city is looking to take over about 400 of the nearly 800 Waste Management dumpster franchise agreements and transition those businesses to either underground systems or an above ground container by the same company. The city would pay for the container and the businesses would pay the city a monthly fee to use it.
Kirkendall said he isn’t sure how long this transition will take.