The city of Solon is exploring a switch to automated recycling pickup in an effort to cut costs and increase recycling rates.
The city needs new recycling equipment because the trucks are about 17 years old and are showing wear and tear, said Service Department Tom Bandiera. With that need imminent, Bandiera said its time to consider the switch to automated pickup.
Automated pickup involves a front-loading truck with an arm that picks up a standardized container provided by the city. It makes the process more efficient, reduces worker injury and promotes recycling.
The city automated its solid waste pickup in 2009, and the program has been successful at reducing costs and the amount of trash that people produce, which helps Solon's bottom line by shrinking the amount of trash the city dumps.
Bandiera said the city has cut the amount of monthly trash dumped from as much as 12,000 tons to roughly 7,000 tons.
Bandiera said he expects residents will adapt well to the new recycling pickup since they seem to enjoy the automated trash program.
"Our residents are doing an outstanding job with the automated solid waste," Bandiera told the public works committee. "I don't think its going to be as big a transition."
The cost comparison between the automated and the current manual program shows that the automated program would save the city about $700 per month, and about $112,400 annually.
He said the city saw a big boost when they went to single-stream recycling from a system the required sorting recyclables. Now the rate is about 46 percent, up from about 20 percent, Bandiera said.
He thinks the automated program will boost recycling rates in Solon. He estimates a 35 percent increase in participation.
"It's astonishing to see how many people will do it as long as you give them a nice container to put it in," he said.
Bandiera said he would like to begin a program in Spring 2013.
Bandiera said the city would host public meetings to explain the program to residents and would host a public education campaign on the city website and government channel.
Public Works Director Robert Pelunis said the public works committee will continue to study the issue, and will likely refer it to the finance committee for that discussion.