Solid Waste & Recycling


Turn Cost Centre into Profit Centre

Rising costs of fuel, staff, equipment and infrastructure are driving a continuous process of innovation to reduce the costs of handling and transferring solid wastes and recyclables. As interest grow...

Rising costs of fuel, staff, equipment and infrastructure are driving a continuous process of innovation to reduce the costs of handling and transferring solid wastes and recyclables. As interest grows in meeting these challenges, solid waste managers in North America are remodeling their waste and recycling programs. Having the right tools and knowledge about how to use them is central to success.

The system employed at the Monroe County Municipal Waste Management Authority of Pennsylvania (MCMWMA) is an example of how to capitalize on an innovative recycling collection and transfer system that boosts productivity, minimizes operating costs and generates revenue.

With the help of Canadian-based technologies, these are strategies some Canadian municipalities could easily incorporate.

Recycling challenges

Pennsylvania’s Act 101 requires each county to divert 25 per cent of its waste from the landfill and mandates which recyclables must be collected. To meet this mandate, the waste authority identified the need to create an operation that could handle recycling for its residents and large tourist population. Since no local materials recovery facility (MRF) was large enough to handle the growing volume of recyclables, the county decided to examine its options.

When Dean DeLong, executive director of the MCMWMA, first introduced the idea of a state-of-the-art transfer station that operates 24/7, and runs on a fully automated basis, many people didn’t think it was feasible. How do you train drivers to operate the facility? What about contamination? And how you pay for program costs? they asked.

With the Blakeslee Consolidation Center, Mr. DeLong provided the answers. The automated transfer station operates well without any people, and thanks to its very extremely low operating costs, also generates revenue for the county.

Innovative technology

The collection and transfer system manufactured by Haul-All Equipment Systems of Calgary, Alberta and distri- buted by VQuip Inc. of Burling- ton, Ontario was installed and fully operational in less than seven months.

Since consolidation and bulk transfer provides the opportunity to minimize processing and handling costs, the vendors focused their design considerations on the timely transfer and efficient management of recyclables. Volumes of recovered materials were estimated to determine required infrastructure, so the design incorporates the use of computer modeling techniques and detailed routing analysis. The system was also designed to provide increased storage capacity to meet the demands of full time and seasonal residents and system expandability to cope with future expansions.

The nine 53 yd.3 (477 yd.3 of storage) fully automated Transtor modular transfer units were shipped knocked down from the plant and were in place and operating in less than 30 days. The units are constructed of stainless steel receiving shells for long service life.

The collection system includes seven strategically placed depot sites using a total of sixty-four 6 yd.3 semi-automated recycling containers located throughout the county to allow tourists and the area’s 140,000 residents to conveniently dispose of source-separated materials any time of day.

The county accepts cardboard, newspaper, junk mail and magazines combined, steel and aluminum cans combined, and plastics No. 1 and No. 2 combined and glass. (Depots are carefully designed so that it is nearly impossible to put the wrong commodity in the inappropriate bin.) When the bins are full, three drivers operating two 35 yd.3, two-stream collection vehicles service the semi-automated recycling bins to collect source-separated recyclables and drive them to the consolidation centre where they’re emptied into the Transtor and stored for shipment to the mills.

As each collection vehicle enters the facility drivers enter a pass code that opens the electric gate at the entrance. The driver then proceeds onto a scale and identifies his vehicle and commodity onboard. The driver then drives to the appropriate bin and unloads the commodity. Once completed, the driver weights his truck on his way out and receives a tare ticket (which indicates the weight of the truck). With a single commodity, the average time a truck spends unloading is seven to 10 minutes, and 15 minutes for split loads. An onsite computer automatically tracks data from the activity at the scales and sends it to a management information system to notify the authority when the Transtors are full.

Once two units of a given commodity have reached their capacity, the authority calls a trucking firm to pickup the materials. A moving walking floor trailer arrives at the facility, enters a one-time code to get into the facility, weighs itself, and then begins loading. Once loaded, the tractor-trailer weighs out and receives a printed ticket, and then delivers the recyclables to the mills contracted to purchase and process that commodity.

The processors transport the recyclables from the centre to their mills. The contracts also stipulate that haulers respond within an hour of receiving a call to empty a Transtor.

“Mills need our recyclables to operate, and we need a regular cash flow to offset our transfer and depot collection costs,” says Mr. DeLong.

Initially, when the waste authority began negotiating with the processors, some mills were concerned about the quality of the recyclables and contamination. But after a few test loads the mills were satisfied and actually provided a couple of upgrades on the quality, which means more revenue for the centre.


The costs to operate a traditional MRF compared to the proposed automated facility were significant. With the latter there’s a whopping 70 per cent reduction in total facility operating costs.

“The revenue the Authority receives for recyclables now covers the consolidation centre’s total operating costs (including capital amortization) and 95 per cent of its depot collection costs.”

“Although the facility has been open for almost two years, it has already contributed positive cash flow and created a financially sustainable program for us,” says Mr. DeLong.

The turnkey recycling transfer system is 70 per cent more cost effective than the old one, and the centre has seen an increase in recyclables sold by 50 per cent since it first started. A scheduled expansion will include five additional Transtor units.

Written by Alan Charky with VQuip Inc., based in Burlington, Ontario. E-mail Alan at

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