Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Council agrees to recycling change; Vernon will go to automated single stream

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 12:50 PM EST

VERNON — Town Council members voted Tuesday to make a major upgrade to the town’s trash and recycling routine by moving to single-stream recycling and using automated trucks.

Members approved the lease/purchase of an automated side-loading truck for refuse, as well as an automated truck for recycling.

The council also approved the purchase of approximately 4,000 hinge-top recycling bins and 4,000 refuse bins that are compatible with the trucks’ robotic arm. More bins are expected through an energy grant.

Further, a trash compactor also will be purchased for the transfer station to cut the contracted costs of hauling refuse into Hartford.

Public Works Director Robert Kleinhans said the initial investment for the new equipment will be approximately $531,000 for the recycling truck and bins, $481,000 for the refuse trucks and bins, and $60,000 for the trash compactor.

Residents will be able to take advantage of larger recycling containers and put all of their recyclables, including plastics Nos. 1 to 7, paper, and cardboard, into the same bin.

Now, town recycling bins are 18 gallons. Under the new system, residents will have a choice of either a 96-gallon or a 64-gallon bin, according to the proposal.

As for savings, Kleinhans said that by switching to automation, the Public Works Department would be able to collect trash and recycling with fewer trucks and less staff.

By taking advantage of staff retirements, no layoffs would be required and labor savings alone are estimated to be approximately $305,000, he said.

The new trucks also will have on-board compactors to crush empty containers.

Other areas of savings Kleinhans highlighted are:

• Reduced worker compensation claims and sick time, because workers driving automated trucks no longer will be exposed to the weather and traffic hazards.

• Reduced tipping fees for refuse, because expanded recycling means less waste the town must pay to have processed.

• Increased revenue from recycling, because the town receives a $5 per ton reimbursement for recyclables, resulting in approximately $3,000 in additional anticipated annual revenue.

• Reduced hauling fees, because on-board compactors on the new trucks will enable condensed recycling to be brought directly to the Hartford transfer station.

Kleinhans said manual trucks still would be required to collect recycling and refuse in more urban areas of town.

Tight spacing between some dwellings prevents operation of the truck’s robotic arm, but, Kleinhans said, the program would be expanded where possible once the initial investment is made and suitable routes are developed.

Several other towns, including Manchester, already have made the switch to automated pickup.

The presentation united partisan factions on the council, with both Republican and Democratic council members agreeing the measure is a no-brainer.

Republican council member Daniel A. Champagne said questioned his calculations, “It’s going to cost $170,000 a year for the whole package, and we’re saving $416,000?”

Town Finance Officer James Luddecke said those numbers are reasonable.

“Sounds good to me,” Champagne said.

Republican council member Mark Etre called the plan “absolutely the way to go,” and Democrat Marie Herbst repeatedly said the proposal is “an excellent plan.”

Democratic council member Michael Winkler also gave his full support, saying, “Even in a recession, you have to invest in the town.”