Solid Waste & Recycling

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Waste Box Indicators

Ontario’s Continuous Improvement Fund has funded over 450 projects ranging from million dollar MRF retrofits through to province-wide optimization studies. While many of these projects have long-term benefits, sometimes the brightest...


Ontario’s Continuous Improvement Fund has funded over 450 projects ranging from million dollar MRF retrofits through to province-wide optimization studies. While many of these projects have long-term benefits, sometimes the brightest ideas are the simplest. In February, 2011 the CIF approved $4,000 in funding for the Town of Blue Mountain to a test of a “waste box” indicator.

Like many rural and cottage country areas, nearly half of Blue Mountain’s residences are occupied seasonally. And like many such areas, garbage and recyclables are stored at the roadside in animal proof-bins or “waste boxes.” While convenient for keeping waste safe from animals and reducing litter, waste bins impair collection efficiency by forcing the driver to stop at each box only to find that, in many cases, the resident has not been at the residence to set out any waste or recyclables. That box check typically adds several seconds to each stop. With typical two-stream recyclable stops averaging 20-22 seconds, that can amount to a 10-15 per cent increase in stop times.

Blue Mountain’s challenge was to find a way to eliminate unnecessary stops at empty boxes. So with CIF funding, the town selected 254 households and tested the effectiveness of using a small indicator sign attached to the resident’s box in the year between July 2011 and July 2012. Staff installed the indicators at each residence. The indicators were affixed to the inside of the waste box by a screw, connected to a chain. Residents were instructed to place the sign(s) outside of the waste box when leaving recycling and/or garbage for collection. Collection staff then simply flipped the sign(s) back into the waste box after picking up. Two indicator signs — one for recycling and one for garbage — were utilized.

108 residents participated in a follow-up survey conducted by town staff:

• 69 per cent identified themselves as part time residents;

• 94 per cent are satisfied with the program and will continue to use the indicators;

• 83 per cent feel that the program should be made available to everyone in the town;

• 37 per cent are more inclined to place recyclables in the waste collection box due to the indicator program;

• Thirty-five participants experienced a decrease in missed collection events during the pilot program, compared the previous six months of collection service.

Collection crews had similar positive feedback, noting:

• Approximately 90 per cent of residents utilize the indicators;

• The indicators are visible from the road and easy to handle;

• A fully implemented program would improve collection efficiency;

• The program will allow residents to lock their box when they are not using them, cutting down on illegal dumping of garbage in unused waste boxes.

Blue Mountain is now considering implementing the concept town-wide.

So, is the idea new or novel? If you talk to any rural route driver, they’ll tell you they often shove a stick under the lid of boxes that are used infrequently. If the stick’s still there next week, the resident hasn’t placed anything in the bin.

But consider this: almost three per cent of Ontario’s residences are estimated as seasonal in nature. If stops at those locations could be eliminated six months of the year at an estimated 8-10 seconds per stop (representing the time required to stop a truck and look in an empty box), that translates into almost 9,900 hrs/yr. At a fully burdened cost of $87/hr for a driver and side-loader, that time translates into a projected savings of over $858,000/yr across the province.

Whether it’s a stick, a sign or a better practice, it’s worth talking to drivers and paying attention to the little things they do every day to save time.

For more information, read CIF project 338 at  http://www.wdo.ca/cif/

Mike Birett is Director of the Continuous Improvement Fund in Barrie, Ontario. Contact Mike at mbirett@wdo.ca


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