Leslie Henschel was tired of seeing the green dumpsters-in-a-bag that seemed to slouch permanently on her neighbors’ lawn in Apple Valley, brimming with broken toys and outgrown car seats.
“They have a place, but that place is not the front yard from as soon as the snow is gone until when we get the snow again,” said Henschel, who complained about the containers to the City Council in July.
She isn’t alone in her concern. Officials from several metro-area cities said they’re weighing how best to address issues with the soft-sided containers, commonly known by the brand name “Bagsters,” which are used for cleanup or construction projects and later hauled away.
While some cities use existing ordinances to crack down, Apple Valley may be the first suburb to craft an ordinance specifically addressing problems with the “temporary refuse receptacles,” setting limits on how long they can remain on a property and where they can go. City staff are writing up an ordinance to be considered by the City Council, said Bruce Nordquist, Apple Valley community development director, and hope to have something in place by year’s end.
“It was just the number of complaints … and the length of time, anywhere from three to six months, that some of these bags would sit out in the front yard,” Nordquist said, referencing 40 complaints and a stack of photos as examples. “They’re really just a nuisance.”
Nordquist said he wants to respect the bags as “another choice in the marketplace” while keeping them off curbs and limiting how long they can stay in yards. Two weeks has been suggested.
The Bagster is offered by Waste Management, the nation’s largest trash collection company, though competing products like Gorilla Dumpster Bags are available, too.
In Burnsville, officials amended an existing ordinance in 2014 to address all “bulk refuse containers” because of Bagster issues. The bags now can remain outside for a maximum of 30 days unless a resident has a building permit.
Residents would let them sit out until cold weather froze them to the ground, said Chris Forslund, Burnsville license and code enforcement coordinator. Because the bags are open on top, passersby would scavenge through them or animals would look for kitchen waste, he said.
“We have a pretty good working relationship with Waste Management. If we need one abated, they’ll come and get it, and we’ll bill the property owner if we have to,” Forslund said.
Since Inver Grove Heights city code doesn’t reference the containers, said City Administrator Joe Lynch, officials will probably discuss how to approach them in the next few months.
In Eagan, City Planner Mike Schultz said the city is monitoring concerns about Bagsters after getting 12 to 20 calls about them in the past year.
Lakeville, Brooklyn Park and South St. Paul officials haven’t had many issues but said they’ve used city code regulations related to garbage or regular dumpsters to deal with them. Hastings officials said they have encountered problems but handle them with an ordinance restricting “storage of miscellaneous material and equipment.”
Kyle Hartnett, a League of Minnesota Cities research attorney, said he hasn’t seen a city address the issue with a specific ordinance as Apple Valley may do.
“I think most cities would find other ways to regulate them,” Hartnett said. “It may be that some cities have to clarify their language.”
Bagsters provide an alternative to a roll-off dumpster. They are able to hold 606 gallons of debris weighing up to 3,300 pounds. While items like paint, food waste and appliances are not supposed to be placed in them, the receptacles can accommodate 47 sheets of drywall or even a bathtub, Waste Management’s website said.
The bags, which measure 4 by 8 feet, are sold at stores such as Home Depot or Bed, Bath and Beyond for $30 to $35. When they’re full, customers must call Waste Management for pickup, which varies in price based on location. The Waste Management website quotes prices ranging from $115 to $247 and says pickup takes up to three business days.
Waste Management officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Henschel said it doesn’t make sense that her own trash cans can only be visible on trash day, per city code, but Bagsters can linger for weeks. “To have it there for an entire season is an eyesore,” she said.