A Collection Conundrum

WHEN LOVELAND, COLO., decided to upgrade its collection equipment a few years ago, city officials hoped to make sanitation workers' jobs easier. Instead, what they got was equipment that, collectively, did not work together. The city was too invested in its new equipment to scrap it. So to solve the problem, the city opted for a retrofit.

In 2001, Loveland used seven 10-yard rear loaders with cart tippers that had a split compartment right behind the cab to collect recyclables and garbage from about 60,000 residents. Bruce Philbrick, superintendent for the city's solid waste division, decided that co-collection of garbage and recyclables was not working well for capacity reasons and decided to purchase separate garbage and recycling collection trucks.

The city invested $2 million on eight front loaders with carry cans and lifters to collect garbage, and five split-body recycling trucks. Soon after the city began using the new trucks, however, workers realized the lifting system was not correctly grabbing garbage bags and carts. At the time, 75 percent of the city's residents were still using bags for garbage disposal, and the remaining 25 percent were using European-style carts distributed by the city. The new equipment grabbed the bagged trash, but the lifting system did not properly grab the carts and dump them into the carry can.

The city had three options: Get new trucks, buy new carts or make the existing equipment work properly. After investing so much money in the new equipment, Loveland officials decided to retrofit the system.

Philbrick contacted several equipment manufacturers and dealers to find a solution, but he kept running into a brick wall. “No one really had any kind of system that would work with the European carts, at least in a front load capacity,” he says. Eventually, he found a system designed by Curotto Can that could retrofit the trucks with grabber arms to lift the containers. The arms were adjusted to be able to reach around the circumference of the city's 64-gallon and 96-gallon carts. Now, garbage collectors use grabbers to lift carts and dump their contents into the truck properly. They get out of the truck cab to pickup bags and throw them into a bin that sits on the front-loader's front forks.

Philbrick estimates that the city saved between $200,000 and $300,000 by retrofitting its vehicles instead of buying new carts. And since the initial installation, Loveland has continued to automate. The city now has a 60 percent cart-based collection service.

The only problem that has arisen since the retrofit occurred when the city began offering 32-gallon carts last year in conjunction with its pay-as-you-throw pricing. The solid waste division found that there was some slippage when the grabber tried to pickup the containers. An engineer currently is adjusting the grabber to work with the smaller containers.

Philbrick says that retrofitting equipment can create sizable cost savings for municipalities or waste companies. “We were really fortunate because we could have been left with trucks that did not work at all,” he says. “We were able to get the trucks in service relatively quickly without a tremendous amount of cost.”