Above: The tipping floor of the San Tan transfer station is roomy enough for loaders and other large equipment to easily enter and maneuver around. Photo: Richard Sorgatz, Sorgatz Photography. Left: The recently redesigned Addison County Solid Waste Management District transfer station includes an area where residents and businesses can drop off waste oil, filters, and antifreeze. Photo: Don Maglienti
The 60,000-square-foot Surrey Recycling Transfer Centre in Surrey, B.C.—winner of the 2005 Bronze Transfer Station Excellence Award—is managed by Coquitlam, B.C.-based Wastech Services Ltd. Photo: Wastech

Ease of operation is an important consideration. Transfer stations of any size need to be user-friendly so that staff, residents, and haulers can safely and efficiently access and navigate the property. Murphy said the San Tan station is roomy enough for loaders and other hefty vehicles to easily negotiate the floor, and the state-of-the-art equipment employed at the facility helps streamline and monitor business.

"[Our] goal was to design technology into the facility, but we were careful not to make it too complicated to operate," said Murphy. "Our unattended system allows 24/7 access to the site for our internal collection vehicles and selected customers. We have a very sophisticated monitoring and surveillance system consisting of cameras located throughout the site and transfer station. The video images are monitored at our corporate offices and can also be viewed at any time over the Internet."

The Money Crunch

As with any other public works agency, budgetary constraints mandate that transfer stations operate as economically as possible. One way the Addison County transfer station conserved costs during its redesign involved reusing a significant amount of material. Wood from the old scale house was used to build a stairway to the new scale house, bollards and rubber dock bumpers were salvaged from the waste stream, and doors and light fixtures from the old office were used in the new, expanded office. The practice helped conserve construction costs while bringing home the importance of recycling to the district's constituents. The station also relies heavily on software that tracks data on labor, vehicles visiting the site, equipment, and other information to help them monitor costs and look for ways to improve efficiency.

The San Tan transfer station is the largest of the few fully enclosed stations found in Arizona. The design provides a high level of control over dust, blowing litter, odors, and noise. The original intent of the feature was to deter rodents, and to discourage birds from nesting or feeding inside the structure then flying into the engines of planes at a nearby airport. Enclosure required increasing the size of the tipping floor and increased construction costs. However, in addition to addressing concerns of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division, the design helped minimize the potential impact of the facility on surrounding properties and reduced site maintenance costs.

Partnering With People

Managers at both transfer stations stress the importance of recruiting and developing committed and knowledgeable staff. "You need to hire hard-working, flexible, ethical people and keep them well-trained, customer-oriented, and focused on health and safety," said Kuczynski.

The facility's program includes intensive training outlining the types of waste materials used and managed at the facility, and the risks associated with materials commonly encountered there. The department's environmental health and safety plan addresses a range of concerns, including proper handling procedures and use of personal protective equipment.

Similarly, workers at the San Tan facility fall under Waste Management's comprehensive company-wide training approach. Onsite employees and company drivers sit in on weekly discussions covering a range of safety topics such as injury prevention, equipment inspection, and fire safety. Management delivers a recap of pertinent injuries to all employees so that they can learn from the experiences of coworkers and adjust any potentially unsafe habits. Supervisors regularly review workers' familiarity with the company's safety procedures and watch them on the job to assess their adherence to policies.

In addition to partnering with employees on safety concerns, transfer station managers need to engage dependable contractors, should they rely on outside firms to handle hauling and disposal, and communicate with them frequently to ensure needs are being met.

"Contract with a reputable company that can handle the job,'' said Kuczynski. "If they can't keep up, the facility backs up, so find someone who has enough equipment and drivers to service the facility volumes. The contract should address reliabilities and contingencies during unanticipated disruptions in service."

Also, dialogue with customers, whether residential or business, is crucial to effective transfer station operations. Because the Addison County facility is completely funded by user fees and not tax dollars, and because it generates a large portion of the district's revenue, customer communication and satisfaction receives particular emphasis.

"We provide opportunities for customers, including commercial haulers, to share their experiences so that they feel confident that their concerns will be addressed," said Kuczynski. "We do this through daily communication, mailings, annual hauler dinners, regular open board meetings, press releases, surveys, and newsletters."