City of Duncan considers switching to fully-automated waste pack up. (File photo)

City of Duncan considers switching to fully-automated waste pack up. (File photo)

City of Duncan considers switching to fully automated waste pick up

Residents will be consulted before decision made

The City of Duncan will soon be looking to its residents for input on whether they would like to see a fully automated solid waste collection program implemented.

At the council meeting on June 20, Brian Murphy, Duncan director of public works and engineering, told council that the city’s current garbage truck, which is semi-automated, is at end of its life and a replacement truck needs to be ordered.

He said the lead time for delivery of a new truck is up to two years so the vehicle order needs to be placed as soon as possible.

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“This necessary replacement raises the key question of whether the city should remain with semi-automated solid waste collection or switch to fully automated solid waste collection, which is a switch many municipalities have made over the past decade,” Murphy said.

“While the roll-out and implementation for a new fully automated collection program [if selected] would require many months to plan, the primary decision must be made now in order for the right collection vehicle to be ordered in the next few months.”

Murphy said the current semi-automated pick up program requires a lot of lifting by the operators and the entire process is time consuming, repetitive, ergonomically difficult, and physically demanding with a high risk for injuries.

He said with a fully automated program, the operator doesn’t need to leave the cab and has hardly any direct contact with the carts or their contents.

“By not leaving the cab or physically lifting the carts, there is far less opportunity for injuries and the associated lost time and costs, and there is an improved ability to recruit future operators for the role,” Murphy said.

“Another key factor that drives the switch to automated collection for some municipal programs is the inclusion of yard waste in the collection stream.”

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But Murphy said switching to a fully automated system would come with higher costs for residents for a number of reasons.

He said the purchase cost for a new fully automated collection truck is estimated to be $425,000, while the cost for a new semi-automated collection truck is estimated to be $400,000.

As well, Murphy said the capital costs for providing three new automated collection carts to each service location in Duncan would be significant, and larger cart sizes would collect additional volumes and the city will incur higher tipping fees as a result.

The current rate for semi-automated collection in the city is $146.48 annually per household.

If the city chooses to stick to the status-quo and purchase a new semi-automated truck, the annual rate per household is anticipated to be $151.54, an increase of $5.06 or 3.5 per cent.

But if a fully automated system is chosen, the annual rate per household is estimated to be in the range of $199 to $210.

This would be a $53 to $64 (36 per cent to 44 per cent) increase per year over current rates.

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Coun. Tom Duncan said injuries can be significant for the city’s waste pick-up employees using the semi-automated system, particularly as they age.

“They become more susceptible to injuries, so safety is a big factor here,” he said.

Coun. Garry Bruce asked if a private contractor could take over the city’s waste pick-up program.

Murphy said a private contractor would be as expensive or more expensive than keeping the program in-house.

“We’d also lose control of quality, responsiveness and other aspects of the program,” he said.

Council unanimously voted that staff reach out to residents for input in a public engagement program on the issue and report back to council with the results before any final decisions are made.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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