How often do you consider the way your organics, recyclables & waste are collected? For many of us, once we have placed our items at the curb, we don’t think about our containers until we bring them back empty to our homes. There are several factors to consider in deciding the best municipal waste collection for yourself, your city & the environment. The most common approaches to curbside waste collection include the traditional manual collection, semi-automated collection of wheeled carts and fully automated collection of wheeled carts.
Safety & Efficiency
Traditional manual collection requires at least 2 workers; the driver and the bin collector. Semi-Automated waste collection is similar to traditional manual collection as the collector manually aligns the cart, which is then robotically emptied into the truck. Alternatively, fully automated collection requires only a single worker to drive and control and automated arm to collect recycling carts.
For many cities, solid waste is collected more efficiently and worker injuries are reduced when the process is done automatically or semi-automatically. Having a single driver, eliminates weather related accidents, repetitive heavy lifting strain and injuries from discarded materials like glass.
Curbside Recycling Collection
Automated Single Stream Recycling Carts
The city of Houston, Texas is going beyond the standard 18 gallon recycling bins and is steadily rolling out a program that provides residents with 96 gallon recycling carts, similar to those in which residents currently use for garbage collection. The program started as a pilot program in 2009, but is steadily being spread to more neighbourhoods.
The main advantages of using the carts, according to the fact sheet, is that they can store up to five times the amount of recycled solid waste than the standard recycle bins. Since they come with wheels, they are easy to roll up to the curb so that the automatic collection truck can empty them. One also is not obliged to sort recycled materials, since this is done at the collection center. It is anticipated that the larger recycle carts will make it easier for Houston residents to recycle, thus reducing the amount of trash and solid waste that goes into landfills.
With extra ample capacity, these carts offer a more profitable opportunity for recyclable goods; residents can no longer be lazy about putting their recyclables and organics where they belong.
Multi-Stream Recycling Collection
Manual collection bins offers a key advantage; with an open top design the worker can more readily verify and tag for any contaminated recyclables. Also, in these programs, recyclables are separated at the curbside. For areas that require separated recyclables, automated dual stream collection offers safety, efficiency & pre-sorting benefits. However, tagging is less efficient due to closed lid design & depth of the carts.
The leading trend in reducing truck related emission reduction is through implementation of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Trucks. In Surrey British Columbia, these trucks have been implemented to reduce greenhouse emissions. Not only does natural gas burn cleaner, it can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. Each new truck is the equivalent of removing 475 cars per year. Along with cost effective fuel savings and a reasonable return on investment (3 – 8 years), 94% of compressed natural gas is sourced in North America, greatly reducing transportation emissions associated with diesel.
Motiv Power Systems has taken zero-emissions one step further with “America’s first all electric refuse truck.” Offering a 60 mile range and 70 compaction cycles, the city of Chicago deploys 20 of these trucks.
Collection Vehicle Impacts
Manual vs. Automated Collection
Alternative fuels aside, for each collection method, route related truck emissions are similar as they are impacted by the varying volumes of recyclables, organics and waste set out at the curb. The time it takes to manually collect varies from household to household, but smaller volume stops require a shorter retrieval. However, high volume stops associated with semi or fully automated collection may have a longer stop times but greater amounts of materials can be collected and diverted through recycling and organics programs due to the large capacity cart design.
The biggest hurdle for a greener waste collection, today, are initial investments in new collection technology. If your city’s recycling rate is low, automated single stream collection can bring better participation rates. Also, gradual investments & implementation of cleaner truck fuels can make your city’s sustainable goals achievable. Modernizing municipal waste collection can boast huge long-term cost savings, along with health & environmental benefits.
How interesting that you mention that compressed natural gas vehicles used for waste collection reduce emissions. I am moving this month and have a lot that I want to throw away. I will find a good rubbish removal service in my area to assist.
I never knew that there are these quite innovative automated trash services that only needs a single worker to drive and control the automated arm to collect one’s trash as your article mentioned. That is something that I would love to witness. I’ll be sure to hire an automated trash removal service later and wait for their arrival next week. Thanks!