Growing Pains

A good collection route plan should factor in rapid community growth—both now and in the future.

“Growth is challenging,” says Keith Howard, deputy director of the solid waste division in Lee County, Fla., which serves 575,000 residents and adds around 30,000 residents each year. The department works closely with private haulers to examine and reorganize routes. “Our haulers have to expand routes, and add routes and equipment in response to added properties.”

Anticipating growth—not merely reacting to it—can help solid waste managers maintain maximum collection efficiency. Newport News, which adds an average of 30 to 40 new residences per month, is one town that looks ahead.

“The conflict between allocation of resources and demand for public services is a constant,” says Mee. “With proper planning, we can stay ahead of the budget curve and have adequate resources to provide those essential services demanded by the public.”

High-tech tools also help. Newport News uses a geographic information system (GIS) and a global positioning system (GPS) to track solid-waste operations and citizen calls; the practice helps them respond to service needs more efficiently, and to make informed decisions about when and where routes should be tweaked. Lee County is weighing the possibility of requiring private haulers to use GIS and GPS in future contracts.

Doing The Shuffle

Creative thinking can help you do less with more in your collection efforts.

Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department has its work cut out in collecting residential solid waste. The Windy City's nearly 3 million residents generate 1.1 million tons of garbage and recyclables each year. Refuse drivers wind their way through the city on 350 daily routes. Like cities big and small across the country, the department has had to come up with inventive ways to stretch its budget and make the most of resources.

In the past, drivers had to leave their routes in time to dump their loads and return to their assigned yards by the end of each eight-hour shift. Over the past year, the city has boosted the number of residential units each truck collects on its daily route by instituting a “night shuttle” program.

Drivers forego their final dumping to remain longer on their routes. Instead, they park their vehicles—fully loaded—at the end of the day, and the trucks are then driven to their dump sites by specially assigned second-shift drivers. The end result: greater productivity from drivers, and less strain on the budget.

Click here for classes, software programs, and other tools available to help give your collection routes a lift.