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Christine, Montgomery County, MD made a change a few years ago, they
went from 18 to 22 gallon bins for commingled bottles and cans and
added wheeled carts for mixed paper. Therir reasoning for these
changes is described below:
Hello , I have attached a fairly detailed description of our wheeled
cart program, which I wrote earlier this year. The carts are
exclusively for mixed paper recycling. The cart distribution is now
largely complete; there are just a few thousand more carts to go out.
Note that our commingled bins have not changed significantly in size.
We started with 18-gallon bins and now issue 22-gallon bins. Please
let me know what questions you have once you have read the program
Susanne Brunhart Wiggins
Montgomery County, MD, Division of Solid Waste Services
Wheeled Carts for Paper Recycling
prepared in January 2005 by
Susanne Brunhart Wiggins
In 1999, Montgomery County expanded the paper component of its
residential recycling program to include all types of paper. Prior to
this, the program had been limited to newspapers and their inserts.
Residents had been required to prepare their newspapers for collection
by bagging, bundling, or tying them. Newspaper alone bundled up very
neatly; in fact, a week's worth of the local paper fit conveniently
into a paper grocery bag.
The addition of cardboard, magazines, catalogs, unwanted mail,
cereal, pasta and other boxes, telephone books, egg cartons, and more
changed things dramatically. Containerization of paper became a
problem, both for residents gathering paper throughout the week and
then setting it out for collection, as well as for collection crews.
Residents found the additional paper recyclables they were now
gathering in their homes to be challenging to store, heavy, and
difficult to bring to the curb. Once at the curb, papers often
fluttered out of their bundles, creating neighborhood litter.
The trucks used by collection crews were similarly prone to litter
creation. To load the truck, side hoppers lifted recyclables up over
the top of the truck body. Even the slightest breeze was wont to send
Additionally, residents had long been asking for recycling containers
with wheels, lids, and handles. With respect to paper, they often
found the bundling requirement to be onerous. Flattening cardboard
and cutting it to size in order to fit into the truck hoppers was
challenging, especially for older residents.
In the face of these barriers, the County paper capture goal was 15
pounds/house/week. Still, despite aggressive outreach efforts, the
County-wide weekly average hovered around 10 pounds/week. Improving
resident convenience is always paramount, yet improving this bottom
line was a significant driving factor as the County sought to increase
its overall recycling rate.
Large lidded, wheeled carts were proposed as another tool in the
County's recycling support arsenal. But, such large containers are
heavy when full - easily tipping the scales at over 200 pounds - too
heavy for a person to empty unassisted. Thus, if carts were to be
issued to residents, the collection infrastructure would have to
include lift-equipped trucks.
Pilot Testing to assess potential cart success
Groundwork for the wheeled carts began with a pilot program in 2000.
In order to gauge residents' reaction, measure recycling behavior
change, and test equipment, three small neighborhoods - including 525
homes -- were selected for study. These neighborhoods, in three
separate locations, presented three discrete socioeconomic samples.
Enthusiasm for the project was something they all had in common.
And, the first two were ones whose capture rate was already an
acceptable 12 pounds/house/week.
A baseline capture rate was set from collection data gathered during
the six-month period prior to the pilot test's start date. Then,
carts were presented without fanfare: they were simply delivered along
with a brochure on how they were to be used. Weekly data collection
continued, with County staff simply observing cart use and the
results. After six months, capture rates rose to 24 and 26 pounds,
respectively, in the initially well-performing neighborhoods. The
third neighborhood consistently ranks near the bottom with respect to
recycling participation. However, it, too, doubled its paper capture
A second pilot test followed, in which carts were given to 900
homes. Unlike in the previous test, these homes represented an entire
collection route, and included both detached single family houses and
townhouses. Here, an additional factor being tested was the rejection
rate: how many households would return their cart? The answer was
nine percent, a figure staff felt would be representative of the
County as a whole. A number of the returned carts came from
townhouses; when these were removed from the analysis, the rejection
rate dropped to about five percent. During the course of this test,
the capture rate rose from 13 to 20 pounds/house/week.
Big, bright blue carts are hard to hide, especially when set at the
curb regularly by eagerly participating residents. Calls and emails
began to come in from residents in other communities and
neighborhoods, who had seen the carts when driving past, or when
visiting family and friends. They wanted to know how they could get
carts for their own households.
In general, the carts were found to be less well-suited for townhouse
residents. The most common complaint was lack of space to store the
cart between recycling days. Therefore, plans for County-wide
distribution focused on detached single-family homes, with carts
available to townhouse residents upon request.
Several carts from various manufacturers were evaluated over the
course of the pilot tests. A critical quality turned out to be the
inherent weight of the cart; for example, one cart, lacking the proper
weight and balance, tended to tip over.
The carts' large capacity meant that they could become extremely heavy
when full. Lift-equipped trucks would be required to service the
carts. The trucks currently used were side-loading, with hoppers that
lifted recyclables into the truck body. Trucks with lifts, on the
other hand, would be rear-loading vehicles. These have the added
advantage of having compactors. Not only would they accommodate the
carts and their lifts, but they would be able to crush unflattened
cardboard - long the bane of residents with unwieldy boxes.
Cart Purchase and Delivery
Strong data in hand, the Division of Solid Waste Services moved
forward with pursuing funding for a County-wide paper recycling cart
distribution. Staff anticipated implementation over a four-year
period. The County Council, however, decided otherwise. Receptive to
the test neighborhoods' positive experiences with the carts, the
significant improvements in the paper capture rate, and the cart
requests their offices had fielded from residents, Council members
voted to purchase all of the carts at once.
Blanket distribution of carts to detached single-family homes started
in Fall 2004. The purchase contract included delivery services, and
carts were delivered at a rate of approximately 1,000/day.
The wheeled cart program is a $4.6 million project. A total of
140,000 wheeled carts were purchased: one for each single-family
homes, excluding townhouses, taking into account the 5% rejection
rate. Division staff shopped carefully to locate carts which would
provide the best value for County residents. In the end, using a
bridge contract, Montgomery County was able to benefit from the
extremely favorable cart price ($33.32/cart) negotiated by another
jurisdiction. This low price was also realized because the entire
purchase was made at one time, rather than over a multi-year period.
The cart purchase was a significant capital investment for Montgomery
County. Given the carts' 10-year warranty, the per-cart cost over
their estimated lifetime is $3.32. In light of the benefits provided
by the cart, including increased paper capture rate, increased
convenience to residents, and reduced litter, the annualized cost is
The project did not incur any appreciable operating costs. The cart
pilots began two years before collection contracts were rebid. Using
the data gathered from the test neighborhoods, specifications for the
new contracts were written to include the necessary equipment. The
new contracts cost more than the previous ones. However, the
increases were due to the fact that residents are now recycling more
material in general, now that the curbside program is well-
established. They were not incurred by the addition of the carts.
If cart use boosts the capture rate as anticipated, the carts will
essentially have paid for themselves within the next five years.
Moving paper from the trash waste stream to the recycling stream saves
on trash processing costs; trash is more expensive to process than
recyclables. Additionally, the increased amount of captured paper
enables the County to use its paper processing contract more
efficiently. Plus, income will be realized from marketing the paper.
Three months into the cart distribution, the weekly per-house County-
wide paper capture rate had already increased markedly. As more and
more residents receive and start using their carts, the County-wide
capture rate is expected to rise to 15 pounds, with rates of 20 pounds
being achieved in areas with carts.
The rejection rate, one-third of the way through the distribution
process, averaged about six percent, in line with the projections from
the pilot tests.
A small number of townhouse residents requested that carts be issued
to them. The currently available cart is a 65-gallon container. To
address the smaller storage opportunities and the relatively smaller
amount of paper generated in this type of house, townhouse residents
may be offered a 30-gallon cart in the future.
Overall, residents are delighted with their new carts and the
conveniences which accompany them. Because of the compactor trucks
now used, cardboard boxes no longer need to be flattened. The carts
serve as a place to store paper between collection days, and paper can
now be stored outdoors without getting wet. The heavy paper can now
be easily rolled to the curb for collection. And, residents may go
two, or even three, weeks between paper collections if they wish,
since they now have a container large enough to accommodate that
volume of material. Finally, there is now more room in the
traditionally-used recycling bins for cans, bottles, and jars.
On Jan 29, 12:25 pm, <Christine.Mc...@no.address> wrote:
Has anyone switched to single stream, but still use the curbsides
opposed to carts? Please let me know if you are out there and how you
the choice to stick with these containers. For those who needed to
the change to carts - what were the arguments that helped you win
over? Does anyone have information on how long it took to recover the
cost of the carts?
Also, can you provide the per household cost for outreach education
was needed to initiate this change?
Any info. and/or advice would be greatly appreciated!!
City of Alexandria
703/519-3486 ext. 132
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