SWANA publishes report on best practices for collection operations

The report from SWANA's Applied Research Foundation provides guidance on managing waste and recycling collection services. 

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The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, has released a report highlighting best practices to address truck driver shortages and a declining availability of waste and recycling collection personnel.   

The report, which was released by SWANA’s Applied Research Foundation (ARF), presents tools and best practices to provide waste and recycling collection services optimally and efficiently. Called “Efficient Management of Waste & Recycling Collection Resources,” the report follows a study released in December 2021 called “Encouraging Better Curbside Recycling Behaviors,” which assessed the effectiveness of “recycle right” educational programs.  

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the efficient allocation of personnel and equipment resources in the provision of waste and recycling collection services is more essential than ever,” says David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO. “This new report provides solid waste, recycling and sustainability managers with useful guidance and benchmarks for streamlined collection operations.”  

According to the report, capital costs are estimated to account for 19 percent of total collection deployment costs, while labor costs account for 39 percent of total costs. ARF says collection services should be managed so that no routes are uncollected because of the lack of functioning collection equipment.   

Furthermore, analysis in the report indicates annual maintenance and repair costs are roughly equivalent to the annual capital costs. As a result, deferring the purchase of new vehicles at the end of optimal service life likely will increase total service costs.   

The report notes that solid waste collection vehicles have a “useful” life, after which they should be retired from service and replaced with newer vehicles. The optimal life of a solid waste collection vehicle will vary depending on average annual miles driven/hours of operation, local operating conditions, local maintenance practices, vehicle make and manufacturer. 

Additional research findings the report presents address various questions regarding the efficient use of personnel and equipment in the delivery of waste and recycling collection services. SWANA recommends that local governments collect and analyze on-route productivity data to evaluate the productivity and performance of their collection crews compared to their peers.   

Additionally, the report says governments should budget for and develop equipment and labor backup strategies that enable them to staff and serve routes every collection day. They should also determine and adhere to equipment service lives that minimize life cycle costs associated with their collection equipment.   

Finally, SWANA says operators should take advantage of new routing software to develop daily routes quickly and efficiently for on-demand services. 

“We are proud to be able to provide this report that addresses such an important and timely topic for SWANA ARF subscribers,” says Jeremy O’Brien, SWANA director of applied research. “SWANA would like to recognize and thank the organizations that comprise the ARF’s collection group subscribers that identified and voted on this topic as well as supported and assisted in the research.”  

The full report is currently only available to SWANA ARF subscribers. SWANA members receive free access to the report one year after publication. Download the executive summary here. 

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