New Technology Increases Solid Waste, Recycling Efficiency
By Ted Fischer
October 8, 2007
Using new technology for increased operational efficiencies was another topic discussed by MWMA attendees at the Fall Summit in Philadelphia. Most cities and solid waste departments rely on their employees to get the job done with few mistakes and optimally less overtime spent. This session focused on routing software and automated collection programs to save time and money.
Institute of Information Technology (ITT) Dr. Surya Sahoo and former Houston Public Works Director Buck Buchanan were on hand to discuss how Houston worked with routing technology provided by IIT. Waste collection route optimization is recognized as one the most complex routing challenges in the field of operations research, which is the use of scientific methodology and logistics to improve and optimize the business process. Houston, after using the technology, devised a plan for solid waste and recycling workers to collect using a route map that only featured right turns within a particular community. The driver, even though thought the idea was a bit bizarre, found out that it saved time, energy, effort and used less of the city’s overtime budget by following the proposed route.
David Pearson, of Waste Management’s Houston office, also spoke about the technology and how it is excelling Waste Management’s role in collection and enforces their commitment to customer service through on-time collection and reduce costs based on the time and money routing software. “At Waste Management we think GREEN everyday (G for great operations, R for a respectable brand, E for empowerment, E for engage, and N for our neighbors),” Pearson said. “Waste has a regional focus and with this technology it makes it possible to improve efficiency, cut down on service errors and honestly reduce the number for trucks on the road.” Waste Management currently works with IIT and their web-based platform to handle routing.
Akron Director of Public Works Paul Barnett and LaBrie Environmental Director of Marketing Madeline Szots spoke on Akron’s Automated Collection techniques in order to eliminate the hurdles of the current collection process. Akron, along with Labrie, has devised a method that revolves around a collection system consisting of specially designed carts and refuse collection vehicles equipped with automatic arms. Residents then have an opportunity to place the carts in designated spots on the curb side. Then a single operator picks up and dumps the carts using an articulated arm controlled from within the cab, producing a higher rate in productivity, increased efficiency and increased worker safety.