Transition to automated collection nearly complete

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Danny Galvin pushes recycling and trash barrels to the edge of the WasteRec truck while Gabriel Lucich delivers them to Naugatuck homes Monday afternoon. The barrels will be used for automated trash and recycling collection. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Large trucks began making their rounds Monday as part of a weeklong effort to distribute nearly 7,800 garnet and gray trash and recycling containers to about half of the borough.

“This is it,” said Sheila Baummer, the borough’s solid waste and recycling coordinator. “This is the final piece.”

When the delivery is finished, all residents who have their trash collected by the borough will have gray trash containers and dark red recycling containers that can be lifted by robotic arms attached to the borough’s new collection trucks. Before this week, about half the borough had already received the bins, which hold 64 or 96 gallons, depending on the size residents request.

Under a previous agreement between the Public Works Department and the Board of Finance, about 30 percent of the borough was supposed to get the bins this year and the remaining 20 percent would have waited until the fiscal year that begins in July 2013. Then a federal grant allowed the borough to buy more than 2,000 recycling carts in April and the finance board agreed to pay for the rest this year under a lease-purchase agreement with the manufacturer, Michigan-based Cascade Engineering.

Nearly 2,900 households on Monday, Wednesday and Friday trash routes will get a set of both colors this week, while nearly 2,000 households on Tuesday and Thursday routes will only receive gray trash containers because they got the garnet ones in April, Baummer said. Residents can begin using the bins immediately, she said, and trash and recycling schedules will not be affected.

The new carts, financed over five years at 3 percent interest, cost about $389,000.

The public works department will also begin using a new recycling truck this week with a robotic arm and a manual tipper for the streets that are too narrow and winding for full use of the robotic arm, Baummer said. The new truck, financed over several years, will cost the borough about $294,000.

The new carts have at least twice the capacity of the 30-gallon blue bins residents have been using. Since the new bins were introduced, residents have been recycling more, decreasing trash tonnage and increasing the recycling rebates the borough is eligible for. The borough collected 89 fewer tons of trash last month, saving more than $6,000 compared to June 2010, before the new carts were introduced.

“I think anyone who uses one of those is going to be amazed at how much more they recycle,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “Picking up trash and recyclables manually is a very arduous task. It causes injuries that we end up paying through our workers’ comp costs, so this allows us to reduce personnel through attrition, which we have done.”

Officials have also praised the positive environmental impact of automated collection as trash tonnage goes down and recycling goes up.

Residents are reminded to follow the instructions on the carts regarding proper placement. The lids must face the street and the carts must be 3 feet away from each other, or any other objects such as cars or mailboxes, to prevent damage. Repeat offenders do not get their trash collected when their bins are not situated correctly.

“That’s an ongoing issue, even with the ones that are in place and being used since the fall of 2010,” Baummer said. “If you go around on any given route on any given day, you see mistakes.”