Swindon is leading the way in the UK by deploying ultra-modern waste collection lorries linked to a real time reporting system.
Head of waste management at Swindon Commercial Services, George Walker visited Stuttgart City Council in 2009, and saw the new lorries in action, using a constantly rotating drum on the back which minces and compresses the contents of wheelie bins using an electric bin lift.
Traditional dustcarts have a hydraulic bin lift and hydraulic ram system to squash waste. Without the weight of this equipment the new truck allows an extra two tonnes to be picked up on every load. On its own the electric bin lift saves 10 to 12 per cent in diesel a year, which amounts to an annual saving of £15,000 across the fleet.
Pictured in the hi-tech cab, waste manager Ed Mayenden
“It is this cost saving alone which is turning the heads of other local authorities,” said George. “Over the past ten months Swindon has invested in ten vehicles, replacing 12 older style dustcarts. They’re expensive at £140,000 apiece but their greater capacity meant that we have reduced our staffing level by six operatives and we also expect the vehicles to last for 7 years instead of five.”
“They use a Mercedes chassis, an engine with an automatic gearbox, and a Faun drum. They are so much easier to maintain than the old vehicles.”
Inside the cab is where all the high tech stuff happens. Lorries are fitted with a Bartech GPS reporting computer which shows the driver a list of the 14 nearest houses. George said: “The system flags up where a home has a particular need, such as a disabled person who requires an assisted collection service, or if there is a dog to watch out for. It only works when the vehicle is stopped so the driver isn’t distracted.”
The driver can note if a wheelie bin has not been left out, or if the householder has left out-size waste which won’t be picked up. The system updates a computer at Waterside Park every 20 seconds where a technician monitors all ten vehicles on different rounds.
George added: “We can tell where a vehicle is, where it’s going and where it has been. If a homeowner calls to say their bin hasn’t been emptied we can see where the crew was at any given time. If a house is missed, rather than get the vehicle to return, I can direct a vehicle on an adjacent round if it’s more efficient.
“We can exchange email messages and there is a phone fixed in the cab so that the crew can report any special situations and supervisors know exactly where to find them.
“If a wheelie bin is damaged, which happens occasionally, we can sometimes replace it before the resident knows about it.”
Waste vehicle manufacturer Faun is using Swindon as a case study in its marketing.
“The new technology is definitely helping us to provide a better service, and has improved our efficiency. The drivers love the new cabs which are lower and have taken to the computer system very easily,” said George.
Recycle more in 2012 and give council taxpayers a boost
Swindon Borough Council is aiming to achieve a 60 per centre recycling target in 2012, in order to help the environment and the financial bottom line.
Currently the rate of recycling at 50 per cent, is well above the national average, and considering that in 2003 it was just 13 per cent, the response of residents and the commitment by the council to reduce the penalty of ever increasing landfill charges, the town can give itself a pat on the back.
However in 2011 Swindon’s landfill tax bill came to £2.4 million and councillor Nick Martin (right), cabinet member for waste management, wants to cut this tax on waste.
“Recycling more means lower landfill charges for council taxpayers. At the moment the council can sell tin, cardboard and aluminium, but we also have to pay £56 tax per tonne of waste going into landfill.
“Given that 200 tons are collected by the waste lorries every day, there are huge savings to be made.”
“Swindon people are doing well at recycling, but we can raise our game even further.”
“Old clothes, cloth and plastics can all be recycled, and we can throw old bread out for the birds rather than putting it into the bin.”
A new campaign starts soon to remind residents about recycling, with a particular focus on schools. Coun Martin added: “Children are often the key to behaviour change at home as they are good at badgering their parents, so we will be evangelising the recycling message in schools to try and make a difference.”
New on-board technology enables waste collection teams to log information about their round, including which households have left their wheelie bins out (see above), and what the bins contain.
“We will also be weighing trucks before and after their rounds so we’ll be able to determine which parts of town are doing better on recycling than others. This will then help us target information campaigns more effectively,” said Nick.