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Filthy Overflowing Solar-Powered Trash Bins Making A Mess Of Loop Sidewalks; 'This Is What Everybody Sees'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A not so pretty picture was pointed out to the Morning Insiders: decaying, unemptied trash bins along some of the city's most traveled routes.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole listened to one woman who says allowing this to happen is garbage.

Most days you will find Susan Romano on her lunch break taking photos, taking picture after picture of the city she calls home.

"I've had a camera in my hand since I've been 15," she said. "I love the reflections of the people who walk past."

Lately, however, something unsightly has caught her eye -- rusting and overflowing high-tech garbage bins in the Loop, some as dirty as the waste inside, sitting on corner after corner.

"It makes me sad because our city is so beautiful," she said.

On many streets downtown, the city has installed $6,000 solar-powered self-compacting garbage bins. However, many are broken, leaking and overflowing with trash.

Romano took CBS 2 on a trash-talking tour of what she's documented: handles that don't work properly, bins constantly covered in filth, and recycling compartments that are not locked, allowing people to pull out trash and leave it on the sidewalk

Romano said the garbage is impacting more than the bins.

"I notice that they pull out the inside container, and they drag it," she said. "What it does is it leaks all over the sidewalk, so all of that garbage is leaked all over."

She's done more than take pictures. She's also complained to the city.

"I've waited on hold for 20 minutes to report something. I think that most people would just give up and not report it," she said.

The city purchased about 400 of the BigBelly solar-powered trash bins in 2011 for $2.5 million, but the solar batteries often had trouble powering the compactors, leading to leaks and overflowing trash.

"This is a sidewalk. This is what everybody sees in our city," Romano said. "Every tourist who comes here and spends all their money, this is what they get to see."

The city is now in the process of replacing the solar-powered bins with old-style trash receptacles secured with padlocks.

"We can't dictate how people litter – they're going to litter – but we can dictate how we are going to clean it," Romano said.

Romano said the city needs to make a better effort to empty and clean the solar-powered trash bins until they're replaced.

"I think they ought to be maintained by somebody," she said.

City officials declined an on-camera interview, but a spokeswoman acknowledged many of the solar-powered trash cans are "in pretty bad shape."

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