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It’s been nearly two years since the City of Minot introduced automated garbage collection to the community.
Jason Sorenson, assistant director of Public Works, said the new system has exceeded the City’s expectations in a number of ways, including system efficiency and worker safety.
“The majority of the benefits were essentially overhauling the system to make it more efficient,” he said. “The system is now more efficient and cost-effective with 10 workers rather than the 20 workers we used to have.”
Prior to automation, Sorenson said the sanitation department accounted for nearly 25 percent of all claims to the North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance, despite sanitation representing only 4 percent of the City’s workforce. With employees climbing off and on the trucks all day long, injuries were inevitable, especially with the icy conditions during winter.
“Some of these claims were serious breaks or sprains that resulted in many lost man hours. Over a four-year period, we lost more than 350 work hours due to injuries,” Sorenson said. “We have not had a single WSI claim since July of 2017 when automation began.”
The automated system has also helped clean up city streets. With standardized garbage carts that contain the bagged trash inside of them, there is a lot less loose trash blowing around the streets. The new system has also helped eliminate potential abuse of the sanitation system by commercial contractors, who, under the old system, were able to place debris from commercial construction work on the curb for the City to collect. With the new carts, that doesn’t happen anymore, Sorenson said.
The technology aboard the new trucks has also increased efficiency and improved accountability. The trucks are equipped with video cameras that record during the truck’s entire route every day they are used. The video and still photos virtually eliminate any complaint about missed collections or other issues, and also help track lost or misplaced carts. In addition, the system keeps track of every container that is collected or not collected, essentially guaranteeing that drivers don’t miss containers that are placed on the curb for collection.
“It helps us be accountable to the community because if we happen to miss someone’s cart, it’s right there on video,” Sorenson said. “But it also helps protect us from claims that we missed a cart, or skipped someone’s address. Everything is on video, so it makes everyone accountable.”