Country Roads

Much thought has been put into designing collection systems that simplify pick up for waste haulers. Unfortunately, that thought process often stops at the edge of the roadway. For homeowners in rural and semi-rural areas, moving carts to the roadway for collection can be a difficult task, as the carts often must be transported a considerable distance. It is little surprise then that participation rates for roadside collection in rural areas are significantly lower than in urban settings.

Under the old collection system, which consisted of 30-gallon waste cans that easily fit inside most passenger vehicles, transporting containers to the roadside was not an issue for rural homeowners. Now, customers must contend with multiple carts to segregate trash, recyclables and green waste. Although a smaller capacity trash cart is sometimes an option, recycling and green waste carts typically are 60 to 90 gallons in capacity, making them difficult to lift and secure. The larger carts can't fit upright inside even the largest sport utility vehicles. This necessitates laying the carts horizontally, resulting in a huge mess inside the vehicle.

In the absence of an easy way to get the carts to the roadway, customers are likely to minimize the need to transport multiple carts by depositing recyclable material in a waste cart. Or, they simply may choose not to participate in roadside collection. This household waste typically will be transported in small quantities to the workplace where it is deposited in a commercial dumpster. Either way, diversion rates are reduced.

Left to their own devices, many homeowners that participate in roadside collection will devise a method to get their carts to the roadway. Typically, this involves multiple trips, towing each cart behind the family vehicle on the cart's wheels. This and other makeshift transportation techniques should be discouraged, as carts are not designed for high speed, long-distance travel, and this may necessitate replacement of the wheels or other repairs to the cart.

Specialized carriers are one way to address this problem. These carriers attach to customers' vehicles like a bicycle rack, facilitating loading and unloading of large carts and simplifying transport to the roadside. Customers might also be encouraged to “cartpool,” wherein residents with the means to transport large cans (e.g., those with open-bed pickup trucks) take turns transporting neighbors' carts to the roadside.

Using specialized carriers or otherwise facilitating cart transport also will help alleviate the practice of customers leaving carts along the roadway between collection days. Establish centralized collection points where private roadways serving multiple households meet the public roadway. These centralized collection zones reduce the number of route stops, increase efficiency and can eliminate the liability of collection vehicles traveling on private property. Be sure that each cart placed at such a collection zone is uniquely marked so it is traceable in case of disposal violations.

When customers are satisfied with the collection process, diversion rates are increased, and route efficiency gets a boost. Ensuring this satisfaction requires a special effort to accommodate rural customers.

Russ Short of Short Industries, Scotts Valley, Calif., is the inventor of the Cansporter residential waste cart carrier.