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To choose new collection equipment for its single-stream recycling program, Charleston County, S.C., carefully devised a head-to-head contest.
While converting from dual-stream to single-stream recycling, Charleston County, S.C., and its consulting firm, Tampa-based Kessler Consulting, Inc., decided to pit two kinds of collection equipment against each other in a pilot test. The options were an automated side loader (ASL) and a front-end loader with an automated attachment called the Curotto-Can.
Charleston County brought Kessler on board in 2009 to help retool its entire solid waste program, an effort that aims to boost the county’s landfill diversion rate from its current level of 10 percent to 40 percent. “We are implementing several strategies to reach that goal,” says Don Ross, a Kessler project manager. “Measures include shifting to single-stream recycling and setting up a composting program.”
Ross himself specializes in organizing collection and transfer programs. His role in implementing Charleston County’s new strategies includes developing the equipment package for single-stream recycling.
Ross always leans toward automated collection equipment. “I’m a fan of automated collection,” he says. “ASLs make collection work safer for drivers. Instead of walking around behind the truck where another vehicle might hit them, they stay in the truck. ASLs also do the heavy lifting, and so reduce injuries.”
Maintenance Problems, Possible Solutions
Good as they are, ASLs aren’t ideal, continues Ross. “Side loaders are expensive to operate, and you need spares because there are many breakdowns. The lift-arms cycle between 1,000 to 1,200 times per day. That’s a lot, and it causes metal fatigue.”
On the lookout for ideas that might overcome ASL maintenance issues, Ross discovered Curotto-Cans at a trade show a couple years ago.
Developed by Sonoma, Calif.-based Curotto-Can, Inc., the 4.6-cu.-yd. device attaches to the fork of a front-end loader. A lift-arm on the device picks up recycling or trash containers and dumps them into the Curotto-Can. It takes five seconds to stop the truck, grip and dump a can and start moving down the street again. In addition to carts the arm can pick up bulky items like refrigerators and sofas.
After 10 to 15 lifts, the front-end loader’s fork arm empties the Curotto-Can into the truck’s hopper.
Ross liked the idea because of the front-end loader. “A front-end loader is close to bullet proof on maintenance,” he says. “Maintenance costs are low and very predictable — between $1,500 and $2,000 per month. By comparison, ASL maintenance costs are less predictable and higher, averaging around $2,500 per month.”
To earn the maintenance benefits of front-end loaders on residential routes, however, you had to buy into the Curotto-Can. Ross had no first-hand experience with the device. Neither did county officials.
“Solid waste work is local,” Ross says. “What works in Washington, D.C., may not work in San Francisco. So we knew that the Curotto-Can might or might not work in Charleston County. I suggested a pilot test pitting the best ASL we could buy against a front-end loader equipped with a Curotto-Can.”