Waste Management rolled out 22 new, forest-green garbage trucks Thursday, each fitted with robotic arms and fueled by environmentally friendly natural gas.
The trucks, which cost about $400,000 apiece, will head to east Hillsborough County neighborhoods Monday, the official start for automated garbage collection in the county.
Waste Management, along with Progressive Waste and Republic Services, submitted the lowest bids late last year to provide automated garbage pickup in the unincorporated areas of the county. Progressive Waste, formerly Waste Services Inc., also will be using trucks fueled by compressed natural gas. Republic Services will eventually transition to the cleaner-burning fuel.
Compressed natural gas emits lower volumes of greenhouse gases than diesel or gasoline-fueled vehicles. An added advantage is that the trucks are quieter than the diesel trucks Waste Management has been using, said company spokeswoman Dawn McCormick.
When the county government put out its request for bids, one of the conditions was that the companies agree to transition their local fleets to compressed natural gas. Waste Management has 2,400 CNG-fueled trucks nationwide, including 170 in Florida.
“Every truck we replace with natural gas reduces our diesel use by an average of 8,000 gallons per year, while simultaneously reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by 22 metric tons,” said Ken Bevis, senior district manager for the company.
Replacing a diesel truck with compressed natural gas can reduce a truck’s emissions by these amounts:
Up to 86 percent reduction in air particulates; 75 percent reduction in carbon monoxide; 49 percent in nitrogen oxides; 25 percent less carbon dioxide.
The Waste Management trucks use a front-end loader, operated by the driver. Robotic arms holding a square, metal hopper come down in front of the truck. Another set of arms project from the hopper’s side and grasp the 95-gallon rolling garbage carts that Bevis calls “toters.” The county started supplying the rolling bins to residents in July.
The cart is dumped into the hopper, then placed back on the ground, an operation that takes 5 seconds. The hopper can hold the waste from eight to 15 carts before dumping it in the back of the truck, Bevis said.
“One nice thing is the toter is put right back down where it was picked up at,” Bevis said. County residents have been using their own garbage cans ,which were often thrown down by the garbage men, and then rolled around the yard, street or driveway. The hopper also reduces the chance garbage will spill onto the street.
“The residents are going to like it,” Bevis predicted.
The county also issued households smaller, 65-gallon rolling bins for recycling. McCormick said residents should be careful to put only recyclable material into the blue bins. Acceptable recyclables include paper and cardboard products, glass bottles, plastics and aluminum and steel cans.
Mixing materials that are not recyclable can contaminate the load and cost both the company and the county money. When the waste companies sell the recyclables, the county government gets a percentage, estimated at between $1 million and $2 million a year.