Grant to speed up automated collection implementation

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Naugatuck recently won $98,000 from an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act energy efficiency and conservation program to buy more automated containers for recycling. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Automated trucks with robotic arms will collect all borough recyclables by the end of the year, thanks to an unforeseen award of federal grant money.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “I think the automated program has been well received by the public in terms of convenience.”

The borough recently won $98,000 from an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act energy efficiency and conservation program. The money will buy more than 2,000 automated containers for residents on Monday and Friday recycling routes, who do not already have them, said Sheila Baummer, the borough’s solid waste and recycling coordinator.

The carts might arrive in April, Baummer said. Residents will receive more specific notification, similar to the Code Red message Mezzo sent out when carts were delivered last fall to The Ridge subdivision, Baummer said.

The 96-gallon containers, the same shade of garnet as the borough’s sports uniforms, are much larger than the blue bins half the borough uses and come with lists detailing what can be recycled. Since the borough began the slow switch to automated collection, recycling has increased and the amount of trash collected has decreased, Baummer said. The borough has consequently paid less in tipping fees and received larger recycling rebates from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

An average, between 2006 and 2010, 9,458 tons of garage were collected per year while 1,417 tons of recyclables were collected, Baummer said. In 2011, after the borough began moving forward with automated collection, the borough collected 8,722 tons of garbage and 1,737 tons of recyclables, she said.

“Every ton that you don’t put in the garbage is that much less you have to pay for,” Baummer said. “Most everyone who starts to use the carts finds that it’s simpler than putting out multiple blue bins.”

About half the borough now receives automatic trash and recycling collection. The Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses had committed to spending $573,000 next fiscal year to buy automated trash and recycling containers for an additional 30 percent of the borough and a new automated truck with a robotic arm that grabs the special containers. The new grant money means the borough will be able to pay for all recycling to be automated by the end of the summer or early fall, Baummer said.

About 20 percent of the borough will go without gray 96-gallon carts for automated trash pickup until the fiscal year that begins in July 2013, Baummer said.

The Tuesday and Thursday routes will never be fully automated because the streets are too narrow or winding for the robotic arm, but they will still receive new bins, Baummer said. Those routes will be served by the new truck, which will have a tipper, meaning only one man is needed on the back of the truck to tip, rather than lift, the trash inside.

Automated collection has reduced the manpower necessary to pick up trash, allowing the public works department to cut open positions. Mezzo said he expected it to reduce money spent on workers’ compensation for sanitation employees, who will not lift and carry as much.

“Traditional collection is very burdensome on the body,” Mezzo said.

The state announced last month that it had $300,000 left over from the energy efficiency grants originally given in 2009, Mayoral Aide Ed Carter said. The borough had a little more than two weeks to apply for the money, Carter said.

“In government terms, that’s the 50-yard dash,” Carter said.

The borough won about $117,000 in 2009 from the same pool of money to help start the automated waste pickup program, Carter said.