Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Roll Carts Used By Downtown Merchants

When I speak glowingly (you really need to watch this fun 2-minute video to get into the spirit) of roll carts as a vital component of a yardwaste/leaf collection program, some are skeptical. One concern expressed is that the workers would have trouble emptying the carts, which have two to three times the capacity of yardwaste bags. This is easily solved by retrofitting a hydraulic "tipper hook" on the back of existing trucks, at a cost of $5000 per hook. When compared to the roughly one million dollars spent collecting leaves and yardwaste each year, this is a very minor expense that, by eliminating the need for loose leaf pickup ten months per year, could bring several hundred thousand dollars in annual savings.

There've been claims that, if roll carts are to be used for containerizing leaves/yardwaste, the best approach is to spend $250,000 on a brand new truck with an automated hook. This would reduce workers needed to one driver, which could save money over time, but as we can see along Nassau Street, cost-conscious WasteManagement is doing just fine collecting recyclables with two men, plus one of those hydraulic hooks on the back that relieves back stress by doing the lifting. The big advantage of two men in areas of the former borough is that having one worker on the ground makes it much easier to get the carts out from behind parked cars and other obstructions that might be problematic for the expensive new truck with an automated lift on the side.

Here's a close-up of the "tipper hook". It has a low profile, and is safe to use.

How much would the carts cost? I've heard estimates around $50-60 each. Each one has the capacity to eliminate the need for 150 yardwaste bags/year, which means the cart pays for itself in the first year and can continue serving indefinitely.

Roll carts are not only the preferred approach for cost-conscious private haulers like WasteManagement, but also for many yardwaste collection programs around the country. Ann Arbor's program is most relevant because of its similar climate, but also relevant are programs in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Durham, NC, and doubtless many other municipalities (Who could forget Enid, Oklahoma, with its rollcart parade video?). The roll carts--with wheels, easier filling, reusability, larger capacity, greater stability, a cover to protect contents from rain, and the potential for large additional savings by adding foodwaste--are a much more plausible alternative to loose dumping than yardwaste bags, which still could be used to supplement the roll cart's capacity. With the carts, council can do away with loose yardwaste pickups for 9-10 months out of the year, and still feel like the town's offering a credible and much more efficient service while stripping away all the negatives associated with loose dumping in the streets.

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