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Wauwatosa to save on new garbage collection plan

A new Wauwatosa garbage truck uses an articulated arm to reach out and grasp residential trash carts left at curbside along Chestnut Street.

A new Wauwatosa garbage truck uses an articulated arm to reach out and grasp residential trash carts left at curbside along Chestnut Street. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Oct. 30, 2012

An innovative garbage and recycling collection system and a planned reduction in manpower is allowing the Department of Public Works to cut its budget back to where it was five or 10 years ago, Department of Public Works Director Bill Porter said.

The city implemented automated collection this year, with trucks that have a mechanical arm that sticks out the side, grasps the garbage receptacle, lifts it and dumps the waste into the truck's trash compactor. The change has eliminated the need for an employee to handle the receptacle, reducing the number of operators required per truck from two to one. All that is needed now is a driver.

Changes so far are projected to save $325,000 in 2013, Porter said, more than 10 percent of the nearly $2.64 million budgeted for the sanitation service for 2012.

Further changes are being pursued, Porter said, in a plan that would save an additional $100,000 in 2014.

The sanitation system picks up garbage weekly and recycling biweekly at the city's 17,000 households.

"There are four trucks on garbage every day, two trucks on recycling every day, so there are six routes every day, so we have 30 routes a week," he said.

Under a program called "dual use," which the city is hoping to implement in late 2013 or 2014, the same trucks would be used for garbage and recycling collection.

In the morning, trucks would pick up recycling, take it to the city transfer station at 11100 Walnut Road, drop the contents, and go back out in the afternoon to collect the garbage, returning with it to the transfer station. When they are empty, the trucks would be washed out, so they're clean for the recycling run the next morning.

From 30 routes with six trucks, Porter said, "We think we could cut that down to 25 routes a week, so they'd still get done within eight hours" - and use only five trucks.

The savings would be seen in the reduction of pickup personnel from eight full-time equivalents to five, truck servicing and repair, and the elimination of the need for the city's trucks to haul the recycling to material recovery facilities, a 36-mile roundtrip to Norway (this year), or a 30-mile roundtrip to Muskego (next year).

The operator of the transfer station would change from Waste Management to Veolia, which would pick up and haul waste to a landfill, and, in separate trucks, also haul the recycling.

The city will run a pilot program to see if the dual use model works as planned. Implementing the program citywide requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources, Porter said.

"If the pilot program is acceptable, then we would file the necessary paperwork with DNR, and they will undoubtedly have some review time and want to look at our operation before they would issue us a permit," he said. If approved, he said, it would take about six months to get the program running.

"If they decide not to issue us a permit, and there are no guarantees … then we'd have to go back to the drawing board," he said. "Again, initial conversations with them have said that as long as we can prove it during this pilot program, that they would be inclined to approve a modification to our permit."

Porter said he is not aware of any other Wisconsin city using this model.

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