A rationale for wheeled bins
Waste in New York City is collected in four different ways
1. Manual loading: an open-back truck where trash is lifted in bags, small bins or bales weighing under 60 lbs.
2. Wheeled bins: 64 or 96 gallon wheeled bins are hooked onto the rear of the truck and upended by a hydraulic system.
3. 1-8 cubic yard containers: Stationary or wheeled containers may be lifted by a front loader or 1-2 CY wheeled containers can be lifted by a rear load cable.
4. Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo): a large container, from 20 to 40 cubic yards, is physically hauled onto the truck, and brought back empty.
Types of collection truck for residential trash
But while private haulers use all 4 methods, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) only collects types 1 and 4 for new buildings. Offering new buildings the choice between bags and a roll-off container leaves very little flexibility for designers to incorporate containers into buildings. It also offers little flexibility for changing waste streams in the future, when organic waste will need to be collected alongside two recycling streams and a smaller amount of trash.
Hand lifted bins and bags are slow to load, at London Terrace, an apartment complex of 1600 units in Chelsea, DSNY workers routinely spend over an hour loading about 1000 bags of trash and recycling into multiple trucks. They are also bad for collection staff, who can pick up over 5 tons per shift, which leads to high injury rates. And as we all know they block sidewalks and bring litter and rats.
Waste is currently loaded manually, either in bags (left) or in receptacles such as the brown bins used for curbside organics collection (right).
Roll-on, roll-off containers offer an economy of scale, allowing large amounts of trash to be consolidated in a single collection. However, they are far from simple to implement: they require zoning floor area within the design of a building, curb cuts to allow access, they impact the streetscape and are expensive.
Most high density cities outside the US use 2 and 4 wheeled bins with a rear loading mechanism. One example is Paris, where two workers load wheeled bins onto the rear of the truck. This work uses the same number of staff but is quicker, safer, more ergonomic and sanitary. A direct comparison shows the differences in the two approaches:
Sanitation workers load bags manually in New York (left) while those in Paris (right) load 2- and 4-wheeled bins onto the back of a truck with the aid of a mechanical lifter.
This approach could be piloted in NYC. A lifter (one example is the Perkins D6207) can be retrofitted to DSNY's existing truck fleet at a cost of approximately $10,000 per truck. This allows 2- and 4-wheeled bins to be deposited in the truck, but does not preclude bags being loaded manually. This would mean a pilot program would not need to occupy an entire truck route.
Potential locations for a pilot include buildings where staff already use wheeled bins to move waste from the building to the curbside, such as London Terrace in Chelsea and Hillman Cooperative in Lower Manhattan; new buildings; and any locations utilizing Clean Curbs enclosures for residential or litter basket waste.
A pilot program would allow for the assessment of impact on streetscapes, and its feasibility for existing and new buildings. Potential benefits include:
- Faster collection, resulting in less idling and blocking of traffic
- Better for DSNY workers: reduces worker injuries and workman's comp costs
- Better for pedestrians: no blocking of sidewalks, rats or odors
- Better for curb space demands: no permanent enclosures required which compete with other uses such as parking, citibike, deliveries
- Allows for further pilots for organic waste, using 64g or 96g wheeled bins, which would make organics collection more affordable for the city
- More affordable and flexible for changing streams in future as the city works towards zero waste; fewer curb cuts and reduced embodied carbon in building materials.