Challenges for Cities without Waste Automation

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Cities that collect waste and recycling manually face many safety and cost challenges. With key information from industry expert Don Isabella, this article not only defines the challenges of manual collection but also offers long-term cost-effective solutions for municipalities of all sizes.

Key Differences Between Manual and Automated Waste Collection 

Manual waste collection relies on workers to lift, carry, and throw household trash and recycling onto garbage trucks. Most people have seen them in action, riding on the backs of trucks and quickly moving between the vehicle and residential waste and recycling carts. Often working in hazardous conditions due to traffic and weather, waste collection workers operating under manual systems are regularly put in danger. Additionally, there are inherent health risks associated with performing repetitive labor including sprains and over-exhaustion.

Semi- or fully automated systems utilize machinery to do some or all of the heavy lifting. Fully automated systems feature “grabbers.” This equipment is designed to lift waste and recycling carts with an extending arm, dump the contents into the truck hopper, and return the receptacle to the curb. A fully automated system is operated by the driver and can be accomplished with just one employee.

Semi-automated systems require two workers, one in the driver’s seat and one outside of the truck. The worker outside rolls waste and recycling carts from the curb to lifting equipment. This equipment is referred to as a cart tipper and prevents workers from performing strenuous lifting. Cart tippers lift, dump, and return waste carts to the outside worker to roll back to the curb.

A grabber lifts a waste cart during collection.

Challenges for Cities with Manual Collection

Cities that collect waste and recycling manually struggle in several different areas relating to worker safety, efficiency, and cost. Below are the most common challenges facing cities without waste automation. 

Worker Safety

Manual collection poses many threats to worker safety. Cities that choose to employ manual waste and recycling collection experience greater rates of worker injury and death.

Conversely, semi- and fully automated waste collection greatly decrease the likelihood of injury due to bodily strain from repetitive lifting motion and hazards associated with working near the rear of the truck. By placing fewer employees outside of the truck, these systems produce a steep reduction in the rate of injuries. 

Additionally, by eliminating dangerous working conditions due to weather, fully automated collection reduces the likelihood of illness and injury due to exposure. 

Operating Costs

While manual waste collection may be cheaper for cities to implement initially, the long-term costs associated with lost worker time, employee turnover, and higher worker compensation claims, and insurance add up.

Semi- and fully automated collection systems require fewer workers on each route so collection companies benefit monetarily due to reduced workforce size. Additionally, because automated systems are safer for workers, fewer employees have to miss work while recovering from injuries sustained on the job.

Cities and waste collection companies save even more money when the cost of worker injury and fatality is considered. In the waste collection industry, the average cost of worker injury is over $40,000 at the time of publishing. And in the unfortunate event of worker fatality, companies can face up to $1.2 million in estimated operations costs. These incidents are far less common when automation is implemented. 

Employee Recruiting and Retention

In the waste industry, many collection businesses struggle to find qualified drivers with CDLs. In a competitive market, cities relying on manual collection struggle to attract and retain workers. Waste collection workers in the job market gravitate toward positions that allow them to remain safe in the cab of the collection truck. 

A more comfortable working environment due to collection automation makes it far easier to attract licensed workers, decreasing the risk of labor shortages. Additionally, automated collection systems result in decreased employee turnover. 

Which Method is Right for Your City? 

Automated waste and recycling collection is a smart investment for both worker safety and operating costs. SSI SCHAEFER has partnered with many municipalities as they transition from manual to semi- or fully automated waste and recycling collection systems. 

Contact us to speak with an expert today! 

Additional Resources

For more comprehensive information regarding the benefits of semi- or fully automated waste collection, download the SCHAEFER Waste “Safety and Costs Control Benefits of Automated and Semi-Automated Waste and Recycling Collection” white paper.

Understand the benefits of automated collection and learn how to create a safer work environment through automation. Written by waste expert Don Isabella in order to demonstrate how waste haulers and municipalities can lower operating expenses and achieve long-term gains in productivity and employee retention. 

This white paper download gives an in-depth overview of specific automation paybacks and how to keep employees safe.

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