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How will we automate our household waste collection systems to improve worker safety while maintaining the level of service our residents expect?
After at least 32 years of debate, the City of Racine started collecting solid waste in horse drawn carts and incinerating it in 1913. Our processes and equipment have changed substantially since then, but our mission has remained unchanged: To promote public health and protect the city’s environment through the collection and disposal of household solid waste and recyclable materials. As administrators of the taxpayers’ money and stewards of our citizens’ and employees’ health and well-being, we strive to accomplish this in the safest, most efficient and most cost effective manner possible.
To learn about the development and history of the city’s household waste collection and handling systems, follow the links below to various newspaper articles and historical documents:
Waste Collection in Racine Timeline
Racine Daily Journal, 3-2-1884, Letter to Editor on Garbage Removal
Racine Daily Journal, 3-10-1906, Incinerated Approval that Ultimately Fell Through
Racine Daily Journal, 3-14-1911, Resumed Fight on Garbage
Racine Daily Journal, 11-5-1911, Board of Health Support for Incinerator
Racine Journal News, 6-21-1913, Approval of Garbage Ordinance
Annual Report of Collection and Incineration of Garbage, 1915
Annual Report of Collection and Incineration of Garbage, 1916
Racine Journal Times, 12-24-1953, Commercial Dump to Close in 1954
Racine Journal Times, 1-7-1954, DPW Chief Rescinds Order to Crush Cans
Sunday Bulletin, 10-24-1954, New Incinerator Plant
Racine Journal Times, 11-1-1971, Single Collection of Combustible and Non-Combustible Waste Begins
Racine Journal Times, 8-19-1981, Council Approves Curb Side Pickup
Racine Journal Times, 4-7-1982, Clean Up Week Picture
Racine Journal Times, 3-11-1986, City Opens Pearl Street Disposal Site
Racine Journal Times, 6-29-1986, New Trucks Will Collect Bulky Waste
Our current manual solid waste and semi-automated recycling collection systems are injury prone, antiquated and labor intensive. Our employees work in traffic; they are subject to back and joint injuries, repetitive motion injuries, slips and falls; and they are exposed to infectious diseases, sharp objects, flying objects, excessive heat, extreme cold, rain, snow and ice. All too often, our household waste collection workers suffer serious, potentially disabling injuries. On average, each of our solid waste collection workers lifts and loads over 8 tons of refuse per day; and each of our solid waste and recycling collectors steps in and out of the truck cab, or on and off the rear running board between 400 and 600 times a day. Nationally, solid waste and recycling collectors are three times more likely to be killed on the job than police officers or fire fighters. Given our mission, it would be irresponsible of us NOT to address these significant worker safety problems.
To learn more about worker safety issues and the impact workers’ compensation claims associated with our current processes have on the city, follow the links below:
Waste Collection Dangers Poster
Civilian Occupations with High Fatal Injury Rates, Bar Graph
Sanitation Injuries 2008 to 2015, For Open House Display
US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Hazard Bullet Points
Additionally, problems associated with the use of non-standard, often uncovered resident-owned trash containers, and set-outs of un-contained wastes and trash bags have persisted for over 100 years. Cans can tip and be blown over, and animals often rip into trash bags, creating litter and disease vectors. Rain and snow can enter uncovered containers increasing the weight of collected wastes, resulting in increased disposal costs.
To read some excerpts from newspaper articles and financial reports from early in our program’s history concerning problems associated with non-standard trash containers, follow this link: To read some excerpts from newspaper articles and financial reports from early in our program’s history concerning problems associated with non-standard trash containers, follow the links below:
Early Non-Standard Can Issues
City Reject Bids for Garbage Cans
To solve these problems we plan to end hand-loading our residents’ trash, provide a standard solid waste container to each our customers, and automate our solid waste and recycling collections to the maximum extent practicable.
For information on the issues that we are facing as a community and the factors that need to be considered as we plan and implement changes to our household waste collection systems,
U.S. EPA Publication EPA530-R-99-038 Getting More for Less, Improving Collection Efficiency:
As we work to solve the problems with our current system, we have established the following goals for our new system:
To start this process, we currently have funding in our 2016 budget to purchase over 8,000 95-gallon solid waste carts and four side-loading solid waste/recycling trucks to convert about 1/3 of our solid waste and recycling collections to fully automated systems, starting in the spring of 2017. The initial rollout is currently being developed and will be limited to streets without alleys, and where most of the houses have driveways resulting in low on-street parking demand. We will develop plans and budgets to automate the rest of the city in phases with a target of completing the entire process in the fall of 2018. These changes will require us to create a separate system to handle bulky wastes (quantities of waste or items that can’t fit into a 95-gallon cart), and will provide an opportunity to improve our yard waste disposal system.
These changes have the potential to eliminate almost all of the hazards our workers are currently exposed to. Additionally, less workers will be required to operate these systems, allowing us to move manpower back into the Street Maintenance Division where we have lost 12 positions since 2002 due to operating cost increases that could only be offset by other budget reductions. The resources we save through automation will be used to restore pavement maintenance operations that have been cut-back over the last 14 years.
We are working to fully automate the 22,000 of our solid waste and recycling collection customers who currently have curbside pickup. Fully automated collection systems have been in development for over 35 years and use side-loading collection vehicles with hydraulically controlled arms to pick up and dump solid waste or recycling carts. An operator controls the collection arm from inside the vehicle. From his driving station, the operator lifts, dumps and then returns the cart to the curb.
For additional information on fully automated collection and how the City of Green Bay requires their residents to place cart for pickup, follow the following links:
Automated Waste Collection Presentation for Website
Green Bay Curbside Carts Placement
The Advantages of Carts
Below are two YouTube videos of fully automated solid waste collections in operation :
Because the majority of city’s alleys are 15 feet or less in width, and have numerous overhead and side obstructions, it’s not feasible to fully-automate collections in our alleys. We are exploring two options to convert our existing 4600 alley pick-ups, or about 18% of our customers, to a safer collection system.
The safest, and by far the most efficient option being considered, is to stop collecting solid waste and recycling in alleys and move these collections to the curb-line where they can be fully-automated along with the rest of the city.
The other option we are considering is to continue operating in the alleys by issuing 95-gallon solid waste carts to all of our alley customers and “semi-automating” alley solid waste collections, just like we currently pickup recycling. To implement a semi-automated solid waste collection system we will be required to retrofit some of our existing rear-loading trucks with hydraulically actuated “tippers”. These trucks are operated by a single person who exits the vehicle at each stop and wheels the city-provided cart to the rear of the vehicle where it is connected to the tipper. Then the tipper mechanically dumps the contents of the cart into the hopper of the truck. The driver returns the cart to the side of the alley, gets back into the truck cab and drives to the next stop where the process is repeated.
Semi-automated collections require twice as many trucks to maintain the same level of worker productivity as our current manual collection system because it takes extra time to go through the mechanical dumping cycle and for the operator to get out and back into the truck at each stop. Although this system eliminates almost all lifting injuries, contact with sharp objects and exposure to most disease vectors, workers are still subject to repetitive motion injuries, slips and falls and conflicts with vehicles operating in the alleys.
For a comparison of fully-automating versus semi-automating our existing alley collections, follow the following link:
Automation of Existing Alley Collections
Adopting these technologies will change the way our residents, some businesses and our workers handle solid waste, recycled materials, bulky wastes and yard wastes. Some people will only change the solid waste container they use and how they place their solid waste and recycling carts for pick-up, while other residents and businesses may see more significant changes.
If we don’t fully automate our household waste collection systems to the maximum extent possible, our workers will continue to be at risk of injury, and be exposed to potentially deadly hazards. If we implement system changes poorly by not providing adequate bulky and yard waste collection options to our customers, incidents of illegal dumping will likely increase. If we don’t adequately address the problems associated with alley collections and working around parked cars, the safety and efficiency improvements of a fully automated system will only be partially realized.
To learn more about the bulky waste handling and other system options we are considering, follow the following links:
Bulky Waste and Other Options Being Considered
One-Side-of-the-Street Garbage Collection, North Port FL
We will start the changes to our collection systems in the spring of 2017 when we will issue 95 gallon solid waste carts to about 1/3 of our customers and start collecting their solid waste and recycling with side-loading vehicles, where practicable. Weekly solid waste collections will most probably be limited to the amount of waste that can be placed in the new carts, which will require changes to our bulky and yard waste handling procedures as well. We plan to convert an additional 1/3 of the city in the fall of 2017, and complete the transition to the new collection systems in the fall of 2018.
To view the Phase 1 Household Waste Collection Automation Program Implementation Schedule follow the following link:
Phase 1 Household Waste Collection Implementation Schedule
Much work needs to be accomplished before we implement changes to our systems. We are developing a wide spectrum of options to consider, a list of all the stakeholders that we think may be affected by these changes, and we are trying to predict the impacts each option we are considering may have on each stakeholder. We understand that whatever final plans we implement may have negative impacts, but we want to make sure everyone who may be affected by our new system has the opportunity to comment on our plans and have their voices heard.
To view a table of the issues that we are working to resolve and the parties that we will believe will be affected by the solutions to these issues, follow the following link:
PAIs - Issues Matrix, 4-26-2016
Automating the solid waste and recycling collections systems will be challenging, not only for the city staff and elected officials, but for many city residents and businesses. Although we are working hard to identify all of our options and the impacts each option may have on our stakeholders, we know that we don’t have all of the answers.
To provide opportunities for our citizens to ask questions, express concerns, react to our proposed options and make suggestions to city staff, we will be holding a number of “open houses” at public events and at various locations during the spring and summer of 2016. We will be announcing these open houses on the city’s website and through local media. We will be presenting information on the history of our system, the problems associated with our current system, the options we are considering, the issues that we believe need to be addressed, and the stakeholders we’ve identified. We will be asking: “What are we missing?”, “Are there other issues that you are aware of, or issues that we’ve missed?”, “Are we missing any potentially affected stakeholders?”, “Do you have any advice on how to implement our program?” etc.
All presentations are from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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