With a contamination rate on single-stream material historically lower than national averages, the City of Loveland, CO continues to grow their recycling center by making updates to the current site, looking at new products that they can accept, and continuing to provide education at the center with customer interactions, while working on public outreach and education with a strong focus on diversion.
About 45 minutes north of the state capital, Loveland, CO is known as the “Gateway to the Rockies”. In the last 30 years, the city has grown tremendously to expand to the east as well as develop multiple residential and commercial areas. The City of Loveland’s Solid Waste Division has been handling the municipality’s waste since the 1960s. Currently employing 28 full-time people, they operate 23 automated sideload trucks, three rear load dumpster trucks, two roll-off trucks, and four delivery/special collections trucks hauling residential single stream material from curbside collections. The Solid Waste Division also has a full-service recycling center that is open six days per week and accepts more than 25 different recyclable items, including paper, plastic, cardboard, paperboard, aluminum cans, steel cans, plastic film, hardbound books, glass (clear and multi-color), grass and leaves (general yard waste), kiln dried wood, tree branches and logs, tree trunks, concrete, mattresses and box springs, e-waste, scrap metal, refrigeration units, large durable plastics, car batteries, household batteries, tires, used petroleum oil, cooking oil, antifreeze, and oil filters.
Collection services are only available to residents who live within the city limits of Loveland; however, the Recycling Center is open to anyone who wants to bring in items to recycle, and it mainly receives material from Larimer County, Weld County, Boulder County, and occasionally as far north as Wyoming.
Staying Strong Throughout Challenging Times
Throughout the height of the pandemic, the Solid Waste Division continuously stayed close to fully staffed and never missed a beat with their collections. Tyler Bandemer, Superintendent of the Solid Waste Division, says, “We have a very strong core of employees with our average time-in-service of 7.1 years, and our highest amount of service at 27 years, by two employees. Because of local rules governing C19, we did shut our Recycling Center down for a one-month period during the quarantine phase of the pandemic, but overall, it did not affect operations too much.” During quarantine and for many months after, the Solid Waste Division did restrict employees from gathering within the office buildings and rarely, if ever, had a full crew meeting. “If we needed to meet, we would meet outside in a large circle, practicing social distancing. Employees came in every morning, went directly to their assigned trucks, which they were required to sanitize each day after each use just in case someone else needed to use their truck on any given day.” In addition, they also restricted the collection of material outside of bins for a couple of months to avoid employees having to touch items that were possibly contaminated. Bandemer does stress that they are now definitely experiencing the side effects of the supply chain issues as a result of the pandemic and other factors, especially with new trucks. “A CNG rear load truck that we ordered in 2020, was just delivered in mid-April.”
The Solid Waste Division has stayed ahead of the curve by constantly looking at their equipment and its technology. They do run some of the industry’s best truck equipment, using Autocar chassis, Labrie sideloaders, and McNeilus rear loaders, as well as having a diverse line-up of diesel burning, diesel/hybrid drive, and their first order of four Autcar/Labrie ASL CNG vehicles will soon be arriving at their facility. “We spec our equipment for safety and for driver comfort, while also providing on-board scales, camera systems, and routing systems,” says Bandemer. “We are currently working with a local video production company to create a modern video-training series showing what an operator will experience when in the cab of a fully-automated truck, doing curbside, residential collections.”
Bandemer explains that over the past few years, they have also introduced Routeware, a routing system that allows two-way communication via an onboard tablet with the drivers and the back office. “Our drivers can take pictures of problematic set outs and the information is relayed to the back office in real time. We also changed the rules for lid closures on all trash carts. The lid of your trash cart must be fully closed in order for the container to be serviced. Although this created a lot of consternation initially, most of our citizens now know the rules and we rarely see a lid open (outside of the single-stream recyclables) when on route.” This rule was put into effect because of the amount of litter that blows around out of “open lid containers”, and the amount of litter that occurs when animals get into the carts. It also had to do with the fact that the Solid Waste Division has a PAYT system where they offer four different cart sizes and allow customers to put out extra bags as long as a city-issued trash stamp is affixed. These stamps can be purchased at the local grocery stores. “The way we saw it was
considering we have a pay-as-you-throw system, customers should be able to find the right size container and stop overfilling their current containers,” says Bandemer.
While contamination in single-stream recycling has always been a problem, the Solid Waste Division’s contamination rate on the single-stream material has historically been lower than national averages, but they still want to see it lower. They combat this with “oops” tags and drivers trying to make contact with the resident whenever possible. They also send out an annual flyer that outlines what can and cannot go into residents’ single-stream container.
Although these steps have helped with many customers, Bandemer says that while they still have not found the “silver bullet”—multiple avenues for education are a must, including social media, the local newspaper, website information, mailers, and use of their Recollect app, which has been a great way to deliver information to customers both on what is recyclable, with the Waste Wizard feature, and also send messages on collection delays.
In June 2021, the Solid Waste Division also began accepting mattresses and box springs at their Recycling Center—at a cost.
Believing at first that the cost of recycling these items would be detrimental, the program has actually gone gangbusters. “In the first seven months of the program (June through December 2021), we recycled approximately 450 pieces. In the first three months of 2022, we have eclipsed that number and they continue to roll into our recycling center daily. These are all pieces that would have ended up in the landfill,” Bandemer explains.
Recruitment and Community
Currently, Bandemer says they are focusing on driver shortage and creating a stronger circular economy at home where the recycled materials have strong value. Loveland is currently working on a training video series to show new and prospective operators what it is like inside the cab of a trash truck, collecting more than 1,000 residential households each day. They are hopeful that this can help with safety and with recruiting employees. “Like everyone who depends on CDL drivers to get their jobs done daily, and the fact that there is a nationwide CDL driver shortage, Loveland is currently reviewing their wages in an effort to stay competitive in their market.”
The Solid Waste Division plays a big part in their community by supplying both the manpower, containers and, ultimately, the waste disposal and recycling for all community events such as their annual 4th of July show, Corn Roast Festival, and the Cherry Pie Festival, just to name a few. They also work with the local schools providing presentations as needed in order to to help educate on recycling and diversion.
So far, Bandemer is most proud of their residential diversion program, which he says is arguably the best in the state of Colorado and possibly the mountain west region. “We have seen a 58 to 62 percent diversion rate every year, going back 20 to 25 years, and maybe even further.” He says they will continue to grow their recycling center by making updates to the current site, looking at new products that they can accept, and continuing to provide education at the center with customer interactions, while working on public outreach and education with a strong focus on diversion by putting up new, modern signage around their Recycling Center. They will also be creating a marketing campaign that will use the sides of their collection trucks and putting up informational murals at their Recycling Center. Says Bandemer, “Our goal has always been to get the good stuff out of the waste stream for recycling and reuse. By giving our customers multiple outlets and easy access, our program has been a success and continues to get better every year.” | WA
For more information, contact Tyler Bandemer, Solid Waste Superintendent for the City of Loveland, CO, at (970) 962-2609 or e-mail T[email protected].