Sunday, July 14, 2024

City details new automated trash collection, over 10K customers will change trash days this year

The City of Wilmington has purchased nine automatic side loader trash trucks for its new collection system debuting in September. (Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — Residents in city limits may have to change their trash day routine this fall per the City of Wilmington’s proposed automated trash collection plan. 

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The city has acquired nine automatic side loader trash trucks that are set to increase pick-up efficiency, reduce the amount of personnel needed to man trucks and lower risk to employees. 

As a result, the city’s public services department is rerouting trash pick-ups, resulting in changed trash schedules for 31% of customers, and new rules to give a helping hand to the trucks’ robotic arms.

With nine trucks aging out of use, city council approved the acquisition of nine automatic side loader trucks in January 2023. Delivery of the final truck is expected in July 2024 and the city is planning to deploy them on September 9 in what Director of Public Services Dave Mayes said Monday will be a “significant change for a lot of folks.” 

Currently, the city collects trash from some 33,000 customers over four days by nine separate routes, trucks making 800 to 900 stops per day. When it moves to the new system, the city will operate six ASL trucks at once, supported by two rear-load vehicles (what the city uses now) to access harder-to-navigate areas like alleyways and one-way streets. The new system will require the trucks to make 1,100 to 1,200 stops per day. Mayes said the new system will improve efficiency by 37%.

The main contributory to the enhanced optimization is the divvying up of downtown Wilmington, whose historic streets make it more difficult for navigation. Additionally, the entirety of this area was located the district collected on Mondays; the new routes put a portion of the downtown area in each of the four districts, allowing the city to reduce the number of rear-loader trucks.

The days will remain Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Monday, the city will pick up trash from the entire northern part of the county spanning from downtown’s northside to Ogden. Tuesday’s service will cover from 17th Street and across midtown to Greenville Loop Road. 

Resuming Thursday, the city will collect from the western part of the city from Echo Farms to downtown’s southside. The core of the historic district in downtown Wilmington will be routed on Friday along with the city’s southeast from 17th Street to Masonboro, extending northward to Oleander Drive. 

The city will launch a searchable map on its website for residents to find what day their address will be serviced. 

Not only will pick-up days be changing, but Mayes and his staff detailed the habit changes that will be necessary to cooperate with the ASL truck. This includes the requirement that carts be spaced 3 feet away from other objects — mailboxes, bikes, cars, trees, other trash cans. The truck also needs 12 feet of minimum clearance to prevent obstruction.

Carts will also need to be placed with handles homeward to prevent damage and the lids must be completely closed with nothing placed on top of them. Superintendent of Trash and Recycling Services Rick Porter told council there were also some driveway versus on-street parking considerations, kinks that may need to be worked out on a house-by-house consideration.

At council’s agenda review on Monday, Communications Director Jerod Patterson explained his department’s robust outreach plan to prepare residents for the changes. This will include mass communication about the general changes along with individualized directions on trash can placement and pick-up days. 

Porter also shared his plan is to staff the trucks with two operators — though only one is necessary — to help fix issues and leave notes to customers on the preferred placement of cans. Mayes added one of the department’s rear-loader trucks would also be roaming during implementation to fill in on missed stops or cans unable to be picked up.

Staff will also need to undergo training to handle the trucks. Operators will need to undergo 24 hours of training on how to load and unload trash, neighborhood driving practice and ops center practice. Maintenance staff will need to undergo three days of vendor training.

Answering the question of council member Clifford Barnett, Mayes assured the city was not reducing full-time staff, as it was supplementing the workforce with temporary positions.

“It is simply a means for us reducing the need for us to call in temporary labor,” Mayes said. 

The department will add one temporary staff member to help answer customer service calls.

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