Automated garbage collection program improving efficiency

“There was a lot of exposure to slips, trips and falls, back injuries and moving vehicles too, because you’re on the street.” DAVE BRAND

The Town of Sylvan Lake’s automated garbage collection program implemented in 2014 is proving beneficial to both town residents and staff.

Town residents received standardized cart receptacles to be used along with the two automated garbage collection truck units last year.

The new program has been successful, with garbage being collected 33 per cent more efficiently, according to public works director Dave Brand. Trucks collect garbage on two different routes simultaneously.

“It’s more efficient that way because you get better coverage,” Brand said. “There is efficiency in that operators aren’t getting in and out of the truck all the time. They stop at each cart and pick it up, but they don’t have to get in and out of the truck.”

Brand said the system allows for town growth to take place without the town having to expand the program’s number of trucks and operators. Operators deal with less physical labour in comparison to the previous manual collection system.

Safety has also been increased.

“There was a lot of exposure to slips, trips and falls, back injuries and moving vehicles too, because you’re on the street,” Brand said. “We’ve basically eliminated the majority of that hazard exposure for our people, which is a good thing.”

Cart receptacles are built with wheels, making it easier for residents to transport garbage to the curb for collection.

“You can flip the lid open, drop garbage in, close the lid and away they go,” Brand said. “There is no lugging garbage cans back and forth, because the carts have wheels on them.”

Garbage collection through the program requires all garbage to be secured in bags. An automated arm attached to the truck lifts the cart up, allowing the lid to flip open and the garbage to slide into the truck. If garbage is not properly bagged, it can fly out, especially on windy days, Brand said.

“It goes back to esthetics,” he said. “If you dump the garbage and it’s a windy day, before it falls in the truck, it’s going to blow away and you will have litter all over the place.”

If residents don’t follow cart protocol, operators will fix an education tag to the cart explaining compliancy issues. Garbage will still be collected, but it is the town’s desire to educate people on proper use, said Brand.

“The amazing thing is the uptake,” Brand said. “When we went to the automated program, we expected there would be a lot more education tags required, and people picked up on it really quickly. We haven’t had a lot of non-compliance issued. When we do try to educate people, usually it’s just an honest mistake and it’s pretty isolated.”

Cart placement, he added, can sometimes be an issue. He reminds people to place their carts far enough away from a fence or parked vehicle so the automated arm can access them.

The collection program has been well received by the community, said Brand, adding there is $330,000 for an automated recycling collection program in the town’s budget for 2017.

“The major cost is the carts themselves,” Brand said. “We would expect we would be able to accomplish that with the same manpower. We could have two people on two trucks, which would be typical.”