Questions + answers on the new in-ground waste containers on Laurens Street in Greenville, SC

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We’re talking trash, but in a good way. Earlier this summer, the City of Greenville removed the dumpsters that lined Laurens Street in downtown (next to Barley’s) and replaced them with something the city has never had before — in-ground waste containers by Sutera In-Ground, a waste containment company based in Toronto, CA, Columbia (👋 hey, COLAtoday), and Greenville.


Semi in-ground waste containers on Laurens Street. | Photo by GVLtoday

If you’re like us, we had a lot of questions when we first saw these. Thankfully, we got to speak with Sutera In-Ground Vice President Steven Cseresnyesi for some answers.

What are they?

These bins are underground, permanent trash bins made out of precast concrete. Having existed in Europe and Canada for the last 20+ years, they were introduced in the US within the last ten years.

Steven says he likes to think of them as icebergs, with “the magic lying under the surface.” Four of the bins on Laurens Street are semi in-ground containers, each ~8 ft deep, with 60% of the container being underground, and 40% being above ground (and what you see on the street). The fifth bin, with the gray and green steel lid, is a fully in-ground container for used cooking oil + grease waste.

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It’s like an iceberg, but full of trash. | Graphic via Sutera In-Ground

A look at the semi in-ground container. | Video via Sutera In-Ground, GIF by GVLtoday

How do they work?

Like any dumpster, these containers hold waste. Each has a door on top of the unit that can be unlocked by a restaurant or business partner, and trash (think: food waste, napkins + straws, etc.) are disposed of into a heavy-duty bag within the concrete container. Cooking oil + used grease is dumped into the concrete container through the top.

How are they different from a typical dumpster?

  • Minimal odor: Because the trash is contained underground in a stable temperature environment, trash is not baking in that southern sun — the only baking that should smell good is that of cookies + cakes.
  • Environmentally friendly: When traditional dumpster lids are left open, the trash inside is exposed to rain. That water mixes with other “trash juices” (we’ll let you use your imagination) and either leaks out through holes in the dumpster or is released when the dumpster is emptied or unplugged. That “juice” can leach into the ground + The Reedy River. The precast concrete prevents any leaching of waste into the soil and water sources.
  • Space-saving: Because containment lives underground rather fully above ground, there’s more room for things like parking and more visibility on the street.
  • Visually appealing: You could say this is more subjective, but because these containers are lower and beneath the ground, they can be surrounded or hidden with landscaping. Sutera In-ground also offers vinyl wraps for its containers — a GVL-artist designed wrap would no doubt turn Greenville’s trash in treasure.

How are they emptied?

A Sutera In-Ground service truck or garbage truck, outfitted with a small crane, lifts the top and internal bag (which is attached to the lid) out of the in-ground container, and the trash releases over the truck from the bottom of the bag. Cooking oil and grease is vacuumed directly out of its container.

It’s as simple as that. | Video via Sutera In-Ground, GIF by GVLtoday

How can I use them?

The Laurens Street containers are for the nearby restaurant and businesses only, but the future of in-ground containment in Greenville could be on the horizon. Sutera In-Ground also offers parks + recreation and dog waste containers accessible to the public.

While we don’t have any details on whether or not the City is pursuing these container options, we could see them in places like Unity Park and along the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail. These containers have also been used in other cities within neighborhoods and in apartment and townhome communities.

Have more questions? Explore more of Sutera In-Ground’s offerings and technology behind its in-ground containers on its website.

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