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Residential Refuse Collection Technologies

Reference Number: MTAS-369
Reviewed Date: 10/11/2022

Many Tennessee cities collect refuse today in much the same way they did 60 years ago. Yet, advances in technology now offer alternatives to older, conventional collection methods. New methods combined with the older technology can also be very successful. Cities now can choose from several refuse collection systems that are highly cost effective.

Types of Refuse Collection System
Automated and semi-automated refuse collection technologies are based on the curbside collection of standardized, wheeltype, refuse containers. Curbside collection not only promotes more economical refuse collection but also provides the opportunity for automation. Standardized containers, or carts, are necessary as the lifting devices on automated and semi-automated collection vehicles are engineered to handle only specially designed containers.

With automated pick up, residents are provided with the standardized container into which they place their wastes. The specially shaped cart is parked at the curb, and the collection vehicle operator picks up the cart with a hoist and dumps it into the vehicle.

In semi-automated collection, the carts are rolled to the back or side of the truck where specially designed hydraulic lifts known as “flippers” empty waste into the vehicle. Semiautomated pick up reduces worker injuries and can reduce worker fatigue, but it is, except for back door collection, the slowest of the collection methods.

As a general rule of thumb, with curbside collection a one-person crew with an automated side-loading vehicle should be able to service 950 homes per day. A three-person crew with a rear-loading vehicle can provide curbside service to 800 homes per day.

Automated and semi-automated systems are easy to use, are less labor intensive, and reduce on-the-job injuries. They can be adapted to operate efficiently in almost any climate, terrain, or street configuration. Reduction of on-the-job injuries is an important consideration; solid waste collection workers have the highest rates of on-the-job injury of any class of municipal employees, including fire and police.

Automated rear-loader packer trucks generally have two or more operators. Refuse is placed in the rear of the vehicle, then compacted by a ram mechanism. Truck capacities of 20 to 32 cubic yards are common; payloads average 20,000 to 32,000 pounds.

Automated side-loading vehicles allow a single operator to drive and load the waste into the vehicles. Some trucks are configured with multiple hoppers so that recyclable materials can be collected at the same time as the refuse.

Front- and top-loading collection vehicles provide lifting mechanisms for picking up large refuse containers and tipping them into the vehicle. These vehicles can be used in conjunction with a small fleet of satellite vehicles.