A Crash Course on City Beautification

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The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is just around the corner. Under normal circumstances, March Madness is held in multiple cities. But after canceling last year’s event due to COVID-19, the NCAA has elected to hold this year’s tournament in a single location – the organization’s home city of Indianapolis. In preparation for the event, the city government and several non-profit organizations have launched beautification efforts focused on the downtown area. It’s only logical to spruce up the city before hosting dozens of basketball teams. But what exactly does city beautification entail? And how did formal city beautification campaigns become the norm? 

A Background on Beautification

The dictionary definition of “city beautification” is unsurprising. It is simply the process of visually improving an urban area. However, this often involves many smaller, coordinated projects. Organized by non-profits or city governments, the goal of city beautification is to increase tourism, commerce, cleanliness, and safety. Planting trees, installing art displays, and improving waste collection processes are examples of popular beautification methods used throughout the years – the past 167 years, to be exact. 

Although organizing to improve urban aesthetics seems like a modern concept, the first incorporated village beautification society in the United States was founded in 1853. Called the Laurel Hill Association, the Stockbridge, Massachusetts-based society remains active today. At its inception, the group focused on pulling weeds, maintaining sidewalks, picking up litter,  and installing streetlamps. In doing so, they helped craft Stockbridge’s charming reputation. Similarly, the Memphis City Beautiful Commission was founded in 1930 with a mission to “transform and keep Memphis a beautiful, healthful and safe place in which to live.” The founder, Mr. E. H. Crump, was embarrassed by the trash littering Memphis streets. By the mid-1950s, his organization employed 30 inspectors, with volunteers organized by neighborhood. The city of Memphis was thoroughly beautified, earning the Ernest T. Trigg’s “Nation’s Cleanest City” award four years in a row between 1948 and 1951.

Assembly and Distribution Waste Cart Services
Workers distribute SSI SCHAEFER rolling waste carts in a neighborhood.

City Beautification in the Modern World

After gaining popularity in the early-1900s, city beautification effectively helped restore the reputations and local economies of many American villages, towns, and cities. Countless organizations continue that legacy today, providing monetary grants, manpower, and supplies to urban areas, keeping them clean and safe. Indianapolis is just one example of a modern city undergoing beautification; there are numerous ongoing projects across the United States in cities like Tampa and Baltimore.  

Much like Mr. E. H. Crump in 1930, many residents are still tired of unnecessarily unsanitary conditions on city streets. Hillsborough County, home of Tampa, Florida, partnered with SSI SCHAEFER to find a solution in 2013. Resulting in a 520,000-waste cart project, SSI SCHAEFER supplied the county with carts featuring WISTAR®, a web-based asset-management program. WISTAR® provides city officials with a daily report, detailing the number of carts deployed in each neighborhood. The partnership between Hillsborough County and SSI SCHAEFER not only resulted in a cleaner, healthier place to live, but also caused a 100% increase in recyclables recovery and saved the county $10,000 annually versus its previous contract. SSI SCHAEFER and its subcontractors were awarded the Sustainability Partnership Game Changer Award from the National Waste & Recycling Association for the successful implementation.

More recently, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made city beautification, public health, and citizen safety top priorities during her time in office. Determined to replace the miscellaneous waste carts and containers used by Baltimore citizens, she launched a pilot program to optimize trash collection in 2016. Distributing over 11,000 municipally owned waste carts to citizens in two neighborhoods, the program reduced requests for rat exterminations by 26%. Following the successful pilot, the city of Baltimore awarded SSI SCHAEFER a $8.94 million contract to supply the city with 210,000 rolling garbage cans. Equipped with radio frequency (RFID) tags, the 65-gallon waste carts are considered “smart” trash cans. Each unit features an attached, tight-fitting lid to ward off pests. RFID technology allows delivery crews to scan and match each cart to its proper address. Baltimore residents eagerly adopted the new waste carts. Following the successful cart rollout program in Baltimore, SSI SCHAEFER supplied more rolling garbage cans to the neighboring municipalities of Indian Head and La Plata, Maryland.

In Good Company

Alongside Tampa, Baltimore, and dozens of other towns and cities, Indianapolis is in good company regarding city beautification efforts. Addressing and progressing city sanitation standards requires collaboration with private companies, local governments, non-profit organizations, and community residents. Beginning with a single New England hamlet in the 1850s, beautification campaigns continue to keep cities clean, safe, and healthy. Sometimes it takes a village to maintain a village. Waste technology partners like SSI SCHAEFER remain committed to developing and supplying efficient waste cart technology, offering communities the opportunity for a cleaner future.

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