Northern Lincolnton residents will be the first in the city to receive city-provided trash containers in 2015, the first step in an effort to decrease the waste-stream and improve residential recycling trends.
Veteran Public Works employees Steve Littlejohn and Salvador Sosa were given the honor on Wednesday of drawing the city area that would first receive the bins in 2015.
Littlejohn has worked as a Collector I for the past 27 years, picking up recycling bins and assisting on the recycling truck, while Sosa has worked as a Solid Waste Operator for the past 26 years, picking up trash on the commercial solid waste pick-up route.
City Manager Jeff Emory explained that city officials opted to use a drawing to determine which side of the city would first receive the new rollout trash containers.
“We put six pieces of paper into a bowl, with three strips of paper labeled “north” and three strips labeled ‘south,’” he said.
“So, if you live north of Main Street, you’ll be getting a container Jan. 1, 2015. And then we’ll come back the next year and do the rest of the city. So basically, people that live (south of Main Street.) will continue like they are.”
Trash Collection: Dangers and Efficiency
According to Emory, Public Works Director Steve Peeler played a vital role in the decision to move forward with revising current solid waste practices.
“(Peeler) has been talking to me for the past several years about some of the changes that are coming in solid waste practices as well as some of the things we may eventually be required to do,” Emory said. “That’s always led to eventually going to an automated system. And then this budget year, City Council talked about it quite a bit. I think it was pretty much agreed among council that being automated would be the way to go, and one of the first steps in that process would be to provide a can that would work on an automated vehicle. We don’t have fully automated vehicles now, but we have the ones that do have the lift that can empty the can.”
According to Peeler, a fully automated solid waste truck would mean that only one employee would be needed on the route, serving as the driver.
“On the residential route, there are three people,” he said. “You have a driver and two on the back of the truck…they ride on the back. It is very time consuming and very labor-intensive. Right now, each of those employees on the back of the truck, on average, are rolling, carrying and lifting into the back of the truck an average of six tons of trash a day. Not only are you getting up and down off the back of the truck hundreds of times a day, you’re lifting all that weight to the back of the truck to be able to put it into the truck.”
“So, you can understand how that’s not an ideal situation safety-wise; plus, it’s so hard on those guys, particularly if they have to empty (the cans) by hand,” Emory said. “Another thing it would mean is that on the days of collection, no parking (would be allowed) on the street, so that the truck can get through. It’s a lot safer. Plus, it’s more efficient if you can just have the person driving the truck and then the automated truck would have an arm on it to pick the can up.”
“And the reason you need to prohibit the on-street parking is that to be able to let the truck have access to extend the arm and dump the can,” Peeler said. “Because if the person has to get out of the vehicle to move the can in order to dump it, we’ve defeated the purpose of automation.”
Trash Rule Changes
According to Emory, Lincolnton’s solid waste ordinances currently state that residents must provide their own solid waste containers.
“The only thing the city provides is the 18-gallon recycling bin,” he said. “With the new container, the city is only going to collect what is in the container, and if a resident needs to purchase another container, they can, but they will purchase that on their own, and it must meet the specifications of the container we provide them. In other words, it must accommodate our vehicles well.”
Peeler explained that in order for the trash container to be compatible with the future fully-automated system, it must be “a 93-98 gallon roll-out container that has a fitting on the container, so that the tippers on the back of the garbage containers can pick the can up.”
Up until this point, Lincolnton’s Public Works employees have also picked up bags of trash out on the street curb. With the upcoming changes, this will no longer be permissible.
“Right now, if you put your waste in a trash bag, we’ll pick it up,” Emory said. “That’s going to stop.”
“We wind up with kitty litter,” Peeler said. “We wind up with hot ashes. We wind up with heavy materials in plastic bags and when you pick up the bag, the bag bursts. And then you’re trying to pick it up. As it is right now, if you put 20 bags at the curb, they’ll get picked up. When we begin to provide the rollout containers, then we will pick up what is in the rollout container and what is in the additional rollout container (you’ve purchased elsewhere, if needed). If you set your bags down beside the rollout container, we’ll pick up the rollout container, not the bags.”
Emory and Peeler also believe that if residents increase their recycling habits, they will cut down on their waste-stream.
“When you start thinking about recycling…if you look at your milk jugs, plastic drink bottles, cereal and cracker boxes, food boxes, etc., they’re bulky,” Peeler said. “So, they’re going to take up space in the trash can. But, if you crush them or put them in a recycling bin, then they won’t take up space in the roll-out container.”
“That’s really part of the main goal — to try to get people to recycle more,” Emory said.
While the bidding process has not officially started, Emory said that approximately $100,000-$110,000 will be spent for rollout trash cans on an annual basis. City Council opted not to supply cans initially to the entire city due to financial budget constraints.
One thing unique to the city-issued trash containers is that the containers will have an RFID chip in them for inventory control.
“These containers will have an RFID chip in them,” Peeler said. “The successful bidder, in our bid package…we’ve requested that whoever is the successful bidder have a chip embedded into the can and that they create a database for us. They will deliver the cans, and they will tell us where each can was delivered. I live on the north side (of the city). So when my can is delivered, it will be scanned and billed into the database that that can is at (this residence). If it goes missing, and we find a number of cans somewhere else, we can scan the can and know where the can belongs. It helps us with inventory control.”
Currently, Public Works holds what Peeler calls “Roll-out Roundups” periodically throughout the year.
“Presently, we provide these roll-outs only to commercial accounts, but they keep showing up at residences,” he said. “So, we go out a couple times a year, pick them up, and then they show up there again. So, we felt that if we were going to provide these cans to a resident, and the resident was going to have to purchase additional cans if they needed more, that we needed a way to be able to keep track of that first can.”
For more information about the upcoming changes to Lincolnton’s trash requirements, please call Rob Buff, Assistant Director of Public Works at (704) 736-8940.