- The City Council of Knoxville, TN has approved a proposal to purchase more than 60,000 90-gallon refuse carts for $2.9 million, as reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
- Residents currently use smaller carts or place their bags on the curb. The new carts could potentially allow for automated collection. The city currently pays about $4.9 million per year for its waste contract and officials estimate the carts could help save $2 million per year by reducing labor costs.
- This decision comes ahead of a separate vote in two weeks to decide which hauler will receive a new seven-year waste contract with the city. Five companies, including current hauler Waste Connections, have submitted bids as low as $3.1 million.
Officials see the carts as a key part of the new contract and haulers submitted bids based on having them. Factoring in the potential cost benefits for all involved, Knoxville's public service director estimates the city could save about $30 million over the life of the contract. In addition to reducing labor costs and workman's compensation claims, the carts are also seen as a way to reduce litter.
While it can take time for residents to get used to automated collection, it is becoming more common in municipalities across the country. Manchester, NH recently announced it will be starting a pilot program next year to test the system. The switch is also seen by some in the industry as a way to attract new drivers who may not want to get out of their trucks or lift waste as often.
In a separate editorial, the Knoxville News Sentinel endorsed the plan and billed it as a way to bring the city "fully into the 21st century." If the council approves, new carts could be distributed by Christmas and the collection contract would begin on Jan. 1.