Waste Advantage Magazine

Solid waste routing

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

In today’s struggling economy we are all forced to look at ways to reduce expenses. This applies to private and public operations equally. For the private operation, priorities are placed on maintaining profits—a difficult task in a competitive industry. Raising rates is typically met with resistance from customers, as well as opens a door for competitors to move in. For the public operation, staying within the dwindling budget is the priority. Now, it is quite difficult to get approval for a rate increase and even more difficult to get an increase in budget. Basic business rules state that to increase profit margin, one must either increase revenue or decrease expenses.

Many strategies and techniques exist for improving solid waste collection that can cut expenses and improve efficiency. These strategies can range from simple operational changes to more extreme collection day changes. Many of these strategies stem from common sense and can be used for most types of routing. Advancements in technologies now enable many options to choose from for computerized routing. Because collection costs make up between 40 and 60 percent of the total solid waste management system costs, this area is generally where the biggest savings can occur. This article will be broken down into two separate areas for improving efficiency: route optimization and operational changes.

Analyzing Current Operations

It is safe to assume that if you are reading this then you may already believe there is room for improvement in your collection operations. There are a couple of ways to test the efficiency of solid waste routes. If there is a route that seems to be troublesome, try putting one of your better drivers on that route for a couple of weeks. If the better driver takes just as long as the regular driver, then chances are the problem is the route and not the driver. Bear in mind though that your “better” driver will most likely always get done faster; that is why they are the better driver.

There are some industry “thumb rule” counts for stops per route (some will not pertain to every area). For example, very rural areas will require more driving and thus collect less stops. For automated collection, the maximum stops per route is 1,000 stops for an eight-hour day and 1,200 for a 10-hour day; for semiautomated (with one helper), it is 800 stops for an eight-hour day and 1,000 for a 10-hour day. So, if you are in a dense city area and you have automated routes that are only collecting 600 stops in an eight-hour day, there is room for improvement.

Route Optimization Strategies

Regardless of whether you are a private or public organization, many of the following techniques or strategies can help to improve efficiency with your solid waste collection.

Heuristic Routing

“Heuristic is defined as a logical, commonsense thought process learned through experience that helps organize ideas, concepts and information into a useful form or solution.”1 In 1974, EPA released publication SW-113 entitled Heuristic Routing for Solid Waste Collection Vehicles. For many years, this was the how-to manual for solid waste routing. Today, the majority of the rules still apply. Heuristic routing defines macrorouting and micro-routing. Macro-routing is defined as “determines the assignment of daily collection routes to existing processing and disposal sites.”

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