MANCHESTER, NH – It appears that much of the city may soon see automated garbage trucks following a report presented during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Manchester Department of Public Works Environmental Programs Manager Mark Gomez recommended the move following a successful trial in Wards 6, 7 and 12.
There, city employees on the back of garbage trucks were replaced with an automated system that removed refuse from specialized garbage bins. Those city employees transferred into to other tasks such as litter collection in parks and sweeps of alleyways for illegally-dumped items.
Since the beginning of the trial period, which began in May, no injuries have been reported and feedback from residents has been supportive of the trial, with 90 percent of respondents saying that service was either better or the same as it was before.
Residents also adapted quickly to the new automated bin pickup, with Gomez and Department of Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard, 99.9 percent of residents in the trial areas were compliant with the procedures for the automated pickup systems.
Response from the aldermen was universally positive, with Ward 7 Alderman William Shea recounting a period when he was a garbage collector during his youth.
In particular, Shea praised the department’s ability to shift garbage collectors into other roles.
“I wouldn’t have supported this if anyone had lost their job,” he said.
The next step toward near-citywide automated pickup depends on whether residents will be required to purchase the specialized bins at full cost, or if they will be offered by the city at a discounted price. Whether a discount is offered or not, Gomez and Sheppard told the Aldermen that the city will recognize savings from the removal of $100,000 in workers’ compensation claims.
The proposal now goes to the Committee on Solid Waste for further study. If the proposal is approved, automated pickup will spread across the city outside of densely packed areas downtown where logistical constraints make the process infeasible.