Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Truth in Trash

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Truth in Trash

Article excerpt

The garbage truck shudders as a robotic claw extends from its right side, grasps a plastic garbage bin and raises it high enough to empty its contents on a scale in the back.

The scale holds the trash briefly before two flaps fall open, dropping it into the truck bed below.

"That one had 132 pounds of trash!" exclaims Steve Triplett of E&H Hauling Co., glancing at a hand-held computer. "It's a good thing we aren't charging yet." The high-tech truck is part of an experiment that may change the way people get rid of garbage. If things go well, Pagedale may get the nation's first garbage-collection system that charges by weight. Before that happens, though, E&H will have to overcome technical problems that ended similar experiments in other cities. Weight-based garbage collection is similar to other "pay as you throw" programs already used by some municipalities here. Instead of paying by the number of bags or garbage cans they fill, residents would be charged by the pound. "With volume-based programs, we find people start using trash compactors and just fitting more into the containers," said Triplett, E&H Hauling's operations manager. "Pretty soon, you have garbage collectors with back injuries because these containers are so packed." Lisa Skumatz, of Skumatz Economic Research Associates Inc. in Seattle, has long advocated weight-based garbage collection. She helped run an experiment in Seattle in 1989 and found that residents who got fake bills showing what they would be charged under a weight-based program produced 15 percent less garbage than those not in the program. Nationwide, each person generates about 4.2 pounds of garbage a day. The average household of 2.2 people produces almost 65 pounds of waste a week. In Pagedale, the typical household produces about 57 pounds a week. E&H hopes to reduce that to 50 pounds. E&H, based in Maryland Heights, selected Pagedale for its $250,000 experiment simply because the company was already collecting garbage there and has established a good relationship with city officials, Triplett said. St. Louis County gave E&H a $100,000 grant to conduct the experiment. …

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