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Automation by the Numbers

Waste Age’s new survey uncovers the benefits and challenges of automated collection.

Increased route productivity. Decreased workers-comp claims. Those are the most notable benefits of using automated collection technology for residential collection, according to a recent Waste Age survey of more than 200 private waste firms and public sanitation departments. The biggest challenges? They include vehicle/tipper maintenance for users of semi-automated collection and accommodating bulk waste for users of full automation.

We are presenting the results of the survey in two parts. Part 1 includes responses to some general questions about automation as well as some specific ones about semi-automation. Part 2, which will appear in our March issue, will detail our respondents' answers to questions about full automation.

The survey was e-mailed to 21,340 subscribers of Waste Age and the Waste Age Wire e-mail newsletter. Four-hundred and nine surveys were returned, 207 of which were from private refuse firms or public sanitation departments and therefore usable. Approximately 66 percent of the respondents were private waste firms, the rest public sanitation departments. The respondents represented firms/sanitation departments of all sizes, with 24 percent servicing fewer than 1,000 customers and 23 percent servicing more than 100,000.

In all, 70 percent of the respondents indicated they use either semi- or fully automated collection.

Shown in these pages is a series of graphs detailing the responses to questions about what types of residential routes (trash, recycling or yard waste) the respondents have automated, how long they have been using automation, and the benefits and challenges of semi-automation. The respondents were asked to mark the two biggest benefits of using semi-automation and the two biggest challenges. More than 50 percent of those using semi-automation said increased route productivity was the biggest benefit and 27.2 percent said it was the second biggest, making it the benefit to appear most frequently in the responses. Vehicle/tipper maintenance was the most frequently mentioned challenge overall, even though more respondents said customer acceptance and education was their biggest challenge.