Recycling case study: Tale of three cities


Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

Greatly improving collection speed and reducing crew size to a single person are a couple of reasons to consider making the switch to a semitrailer refuse and recycling collection service. Two communities and a private contractor who use the system share their stories.

The Public Sector

Before switching to a semi-trailer refuse and recycling collection system, crews from the city of Hampton, VA Department of Public Works routinely worked overtime collecting trash and recyclables. “They’d work into the darkness,” said Chip McDonough, recycling manager, Department of Public Works.

That ended when the city began using Heil’s STARR® System, which collects materials using an automated arm mounted on a truck tractor and a detachable semi-trailer packer body. “We collect from 15,000 homes every day without having to log overtime—it’s a great savings,” said McDonough. “With the trucks spending less time on the road, we’re also saving on fuel and maintenance costs.”

Crews work 10 trash and five recycling routes each day, collecting trash from roughly 10,000 homes and recyclables from approximately 5,000 homes. Crews average 9 to 11 tons per trailer load for refuse, and 4 to 6 tons per load for recycling, which has more voids and doesn’t pack to the same density as trash. Hampton provides weekly refuse collection, bi- monthly recyclables pick up, and weekly curbside bulk collection at a cost of $4.25 per week. “That includes all collections, no matter the volume,” said McDonough.

The city began using a semi-trailer refuse and recycling collection system in 1999, primarily because a single person drives and collects materials, compared to three for a typical rearloading truck. The system’s tight turning radius and maneuverability compared to a straight frame truck has also improved efficiency. “On tight streets and cul-de-sacs, we had to turn into the curb and back up to collect the can using a straight frame truck. We were having a lot of backing accidents, or when guys turned into get cans they’d clip the front end of a car that was parked too close,” said McDonough. “Now, there’s very little time spent trying to maneuver. In a culde- sac, these trucks make one sweeping turn, and never have to back up. It eliminates wasted time.”

Hampton had used a contractor to collect recyclables before purchasing the STARR system. “We decided we could do the collection cheaper ourselves by purchasing a few extra trucks, and it has worked out exactly that way,” said McDonough.

The city owns 23 units, although only 15 are operated on a typical day. “There’s always going to be times when trucks are in for annual inspections, oil changes, maintenance—things like that,” McDonough said. The additional units also provide added versatility. Because each unit comprises two separate pieces, the city can hook up another trailer or chassis to replace the piece that’s inoperable and continue collecting materials. “You can keep collecting your route, if one piece goes down,” McDonough said. “If a trailer is out for any reason, you take the trailer off and put another one on and you’re back at work. The same is true of the tractors.” And the trucks keep on rolling, and trash and recyclable collection continues.

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