The St. Augustine (Fla.) Division of Solid Waste has a fleet of five rear loaders and four front-end loaders. But since the division also performs the street sweeping and stormwater catch basin cleaning for the city, its total fleet number is 17 — including the new grapple truck that it purchased. Photo: City of St. Augustine

By Rick Stevens

Bulk collection in the nation's oldest city has gone from a cumbersome two-man operation to a one-man collection vehicle.

Due to the number of rental properties in St. Augustine, Fla. (pop. 13,000), and city-mandated collection policies, bulk collection can reach up to 40% of generated municipal waste.

Prior to the implementation of the Petersen model TL-3 grapple in May 2010, workers of the division picked up brush and bulk items in two ways.

First, a flatbed truck used for bulk collection would assist the residential routes with brush collection by placing the brush manually into the bed area of the vehicle. Then the truck would dump the brush debris at the yard waste transfer station and proceed with the collection process. At the end of the week, a streets division front-end loader would then assist the solid waste staff with disposal by loading the brush debris into roll-off boxes.

Second, the flatbed would load refrigerators, sleeper sofas, dishwashers, etc. and transport theses types of items to a roll-off container where they were manually unloaded into the boxes. This collection procedure was not only costly to the city but was also a recipe for worker injury.

In addition, the flatbed would drive through the city looking for items to be picked up — a time-consuming process. Instead, the city decided to use the grapple truck on a “will call” basis. Now residents contact the city when they have bulky items to be picked up, reducing unnecessary fuel consumption and enhancing savings by 25 gallons of diesel fuel per week.

Implementation of the grapple into the collection process not only allows the solid waste division to reduce collection to a one-person operation, but it also produces an annual savings of $20,883. It also eliminates overtime, since the grapple assists the rear-load residential vehicles in the yard waste collection process.

— Rick Stevens is the manager of the solid waste/sanitation department for the City of St. Augustine, Fla.