According to pest control professionals, the main thing contributing to issues with rats in our cities is the current design of our garbage cans and other trash receptacles. The Norway rats that seem to be overflowing in American cities survive primarily on food they find in our garbage. The garbage bins we find around our streets today are completely inadequate when it comes to the task of keeping rats from accessing the food inside. Oddly enough, the trash cans that were used in the 1970s were far more successful at keeping out rats than the modern ones. The standard garbage can back then was made entirely of steel and had tight-fitting lids, which prevented rats from chewing or climbing their way inside. The U.S. Public Health Service also stipulated that each city block could have no more than 15 percent of exposed garbage. You would be hard pressed to find steel garbage cans on today’s streets, with plastic now being the preferred material, and even dumpsters made of steel have plastic lids.

These new plastic trash bins may be easier to handle, but they don’t come close to keeping those city rats from finding their way inside. Plastic garbage bins are easy for rats to gnaw through, and most of the dumpsters that have lids still allow rats to get to the garbage inside even when those lids are shut. Even when the containers are closed, the garbage inside is still exposed, meaning the amount of exposed garbage on today’s streets far exceeds 15 percent. There are also plenty of open-top trash bins found throughout city streets today, which provides rats with easily accessible garbage such as french fries, pizza crust, and other discarded fast food items.

While metal trash cans are not coming back, there are still other ways we can alter our current garbage bins so they do a better job of keeping out the rats. Dumpsters can be easily fixed by having cities require that they have rat-proof lids. Lids that are made to have openings of no more than ¼ inch are not cutting it, as rats can simply gnaw on the edges of those lids until they can fit through the opening. One way to fix this issue is to use light composite material that rats can’t gnaw their way through. To deal with the garbage bins lining the sidewalks we can design a way to intercept the rats with bait stations before they can make it to the garbage inside. Conventional bait stations would not work, however, as they have to be installed at a distance. But, finding a way to incorporate bait stations into the actual garbage bins would transform them from rat feeders to rat killers. While there are bins with these bait stations built into the wheels, we now need to develop interceptor bait stations that are located at the bases of garbage cans. With a little ingenuity we can actually lessen the population of rats in our cities rather than support them.

Have you ever seen a rat catching a meal out of a garbage bin?