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How Cities Are Updating Waste Management

Guests this week (from left) Bryan Burton, Zoltán Illés, Adam Wason, and Carey Hamilton.

The city of Bloomington is preparing to enact a new sanitation plan to modernize the city’s waste management system, upgrading to automated trash pick-ups and introducing a single-stream recycling program.

The city’s plan will end the current system of trash stickers, instead opting for a monthly flat rate program with three different sizes of trash receptacles that vary in size and price.

This week on Noon Edition, city officials from Bloomington and Columbus joined waste management experts to discuss the challenges cities face in sanitation.

Bloomington’s Director of Public Works Adam Wason answered many Bloomington callers who were interested in the new plan, wanting clarification on the goals of the new program.

“There’s a key word here: modernize,” he says. “We are operating a decades-old system of sanitation where our crews are literally lifting thousands and thousands of pounds a day. And so we’re looking to modernize with a system that is automated.”

Programs like this have already seen success in other cities such as Columbus where Head of Public Works Bryan Burton’s team has seen benefits from automating their sanitation system.

“We went automated in 2004. We’ve got five trucks, five routes that are automated,” he says. “Since 2004 our workman’s comp injuries have really reduced drastically. The guys just operate out of the trucks. It’s one man. It went from three men on a truck to one.”

State Representative and Executive Director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition Carey Hamilton was also happy that the new plan moves to a single-stream recycling system, which has shown high rates of participation nationwide.

“Single-stream is the most convenient way to recycle,” she says. “When you make recycling convenient, people participate more often. It’s the way that recycling has gone across the country in most communities.”

IU Visiting Scholar Zoltán Illés was formerly the head of the Hungarian equivalent of the EPA and studied the new sanitation plan in Bloomington.

“Any city, all around the world. In the United States, in Europe, could be very proud,” he says. “This is really world class quality, very high level of policy dealing with waste management, municipal solid waste management.”

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