Garbage haulers tout ‘green’ credentials
May 10, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
City seeks eco-conscious company for trash contract
The city is on the hunt for a company to collect garbage and recyclables from Issaquah curbs, and the hauler displaying the “greenest” credentials could receive a boost in the selection process.
Come fall, leaders plan to select a company to handle the smelly task in the years ahead. In the meantime, Allied Waste and Waste Management — the haulers operating in Issaquah — continue to emphasize eco-conscious programs.
Allied Waste rolled out compressed-natural-gas-powered trucks on routes through the Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods in recent months.
In February, the hunter green Waste Management fleet received a clean-air certification after a rigorous audit.
“Sustainability is always on the agenda,” city Resource Conservation Manager David Fujimoto said. “It’s important to the city and to the waste-management contracts.”
The conservation office is accepting bids for a hauler to serve Issaquah neighborhoods other than Greenwood Point and South Cove. Waste Management is the predominant hauler in the city, but the current contract between Issaquah and the Houston-based company expires in June 2012.
Allied Waste handles the South Cove area under a separate contract. The arrangement is a holdover from when the city annexed the area in 2006.
The waste-disposal industry increasingly eschews traditional diesel trucks in the Puget Sound region due to demand from consumers and client cities.
Fujimoto said the conservation office plans to study how the bidders utilize environmental innovations, such as compressed-natural-gas-fueled trucks — or CNG in energy industry shorthand — or another clean-emission option.
“I think we would be looking at something similar to that. Or, they’re welcome to propose other options, like going to CNG or using a hybrid diesel vehicle, for example,” he said. “We’re kind of curious to see what folks will suggest.”
In addition to Allied Waste and Waste Management, the city expects to receive proposals from Seattle-based CleanScapes and Waste Connections, a Vancouver, Wash., company, before the June 20 deadline. (Allied Waste’s parent company, Republic Services, is based in Phoenix.)
The new contract will run from July 2012 until June 2019. The city could opt to extend it until 2021 or 2023.
Or, if none of the proposals suit the city, leaders could extend the current Waste Management agreement.
Other key factors in the selection process relate to the companies’ reputations for customer service, including how a hauler handles a customer’s requests for a cart or a question to a call center.
The city conservation office is also interested in offering additional waste container sizes for customers and more recycling options in the future.
Under the existing Waste Management arrangement, residential customers opt for containers ranging from 20 gallons to 96 gallons. The most popular size is a 35-gallon bin. Fujimoto said the city could call for bidders to include 45- and 10-gallon containers in the upcoming contract.
The noise a garbage truck emits during sojourns through Issaquah neighborhoods is another issue.
“We also look at their overall operations and the types of vehicles that they’ll be using, how they determine routing, whether or not there are some things that they can do in terms of improving their response time or the delivery,” Fujimoto said.
Plans for a ‘green’ future
Jeffry Borgida, Allied Waste general manager for Issaquah and other Eastside communities, said company executives started to consider alternative-fuel trucks in fall 2009.
“Since we were going to be investing the money in new vehicles over the next four to five years, we started to ask the question, ‘Is this a good time to look at the potential of purchasing CNG trucks as opposed to the typical diesel that we had bought in the past?’” he recalled.
So, Allied Waste opted to construct a fueling facility in Bellevue and invest in next-generation trucks.
The navy blue vehicles cost more than a traditional diesel truck — about $35,000 to $60,000 more per unit. The base price for a garbage truck ranges from $250,000 to $350,000.
The compressed-natural-gas-powered iteration is also a little less powerful than a traditional truck, but as a tradeoff, the advanced truck is quieter — maybe a little too quiet for some customers.
Borgida said the company even received a complaint from a resident in another city, because he or she relied on a rumbling truck outside as a wake-up alarm.
Allied Waste drivers Rey Bravo and James Connors praised the next-generation trucks as responsive during a recent collection run through South Cove.
“The trucks are reliable,” Bravo said during a break April 26. “I like these trucks compared to the old trucks.”
The company plans to roll out 44 compressed-natural-gas-fueled trucks by July 31. Allied Waste’s Eastside fleet includes 90 trucks overall.
“The impact on using CNG is dramatic,” Borgida said. “By converting a diesel truck to a CNG truck, that’s equivalent to removing 324 cars off the road as far as carbon emission is concerned.”
Allied Waste also serves Klahanie, Mirrormont and Preston. King County officials handle collection contracts in unincorporated areas.
“As a solid-waste company, we consider ourselves a steward of the environment and play a pretty important role in environmental stewardship,” Borgida said. “As a company, we’ve made the decision — going back a number of years — that we’re going to look for environmentally friendly technology across all of our lines of business, whether it be collections, landfills, etc.”
Demand encourages change
Waste Management is constructing a compressed natural gas fueling station in Woodinville to meet the expected demand for cleaner-emission vehicles.
The facility is due to open next year. Kirkland is the inaugural customer for Waste Management’s compressed-natural-gas-powered fleet. The city called for compressed-natural-gas-powered trucks in a recent waste-disposal contract.
“We expect to serve other Eastside communities from this facility over time,” Waste Management Communications Director Jackie Lang said. “We will have capacity to serve additional communities from this fueling station.”
Waste Management boasts more than 1,000 compressed-natural-gas-powered vehicles nationwide.
“Our clean-air trucks are part of our discussions in almost every community right now,” especially in the Pacific Northwest, Lang added.
Fujimoto said compressed natural gas shows potential as a fuel for garbage trucks as the industry adopts a “green” approach.
“From a longer-term sustainability perspective, a lot of folks talk about compressed natural gas as a ‘bridge’ fuel to other fuels,” he said. “So, I think that probably holds some truth as well.”
The current contract between Issaquah and Waste Management calls for the hauler to use a 20-percent biodiesel fuel blend.
“Issaquah is exactly the kind of partner that Waste Management is looking for across North America,” Lang said.
Waste Management recently earned certification through Evergreen Fleets, a joint effort between the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition. Waste Management is the only heavy-duty fleet in the region to earn the distinction. Allied Waste is nearing Evergreen Fleets certification.
The organizations’ auditors examined Waste Management trucks’ idle time and collection routes. The hauler sets a five-minute limit for engine idling and, after five minutes, truck engines shut off to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions — something auditors admired.
“The questions were: Are you trying to keep your idle time down? Are you unnecessarily traveling in city streets when you don’t need to be? How are you routing your trucks? Are you routing your trucks in the most efficient, neighborhood-friendly way possible?” Lang recalled. “The answer was yes.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.