Innovative Truck Technologies
There are some 120,000 garbage and recycling trucks operating in the United States. By adopting innovations in garbage and recycling collection truck technologies, America's solid waste and recycing industry offers quality-of-life advantages to the communities and neighborhoods that they serve:
- using less fuel (helping make America more energy independent),
- reducing operating costs,
- being quieter than most older trucks, and
- emitting less particulate matter and nitrogen oxide and helping improve air quality.
Perhaps more importantly, these innovations are helping America's solid waste industry lower the greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for climate change.
Alternative Fuel Trucks
America's solid waste industry is investing in alternative fuels such as natural gas, biomethane and biodiesel. Garbage trucks have become the most rapidly growing alternative fuel truck sector in the nation. Major cities in many states across the country are using garbage trucks fueled with natural gas (CNG and LNG) and other alternative fuels. Natural gas is the most plentiful alternative fuel that we have in North America. Also the availability of biomethane, which is chemically just like natural gas, but is made from renewable sources (i.e., biogas from landfills, sewage treatment plants and other organic waste), is growing. Natural gas
whether from traditional sources or from biogas — is one of the cleanest alternative fuels available today.
Using natural gas to fuel a truck may reduce greenhouse gas generation by as much as 20-25 percent, compared to petroleum-based fuels. Natural gas trucks also are 50-90 percent quieter than their diesel counterparts, offering other quality of life advantages to the neighborhoods that they serve.
Hybrid Truck Technologies
America's solid waste industry is investing in hybrid garbage and recycling trucks to further conserve energy and reduce operating costs. Hybrid garbage trucks have been tested in cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, Fort Worth and Houston.
Everytime a hybrid garbage truck brakes, energy is captured and stored in lithium ion batteries or by pressurizing hydraulic fluid in one tank and releasing it to another tank. Depending on the hybrid technology employed, this stored energy can provide different benefits. For example, with some trucks, it allows the diesel engine to automatically switch off and avoid unnecessary idling. In other trucks, the stored power is used
to help propel the truck when the driver gets it back underway. In some models, the stored energy is used to power the truck's trash compactor.
The stop-and-go nature of a garbage truck route makes such trucks some of the best suited to benefit from hybrid technologies.
Manufacturers report that hybrid garbage collection trucks could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20 to 35 percent and cut carbon dioxide emissions by a corresponding amount. While savings wouldn't be as great on long-haul routes where there is less braking, even in those instances, manufacturers suggest hybrid technologies could allow as much as 10 percent savings.
Improvements in Diesel Fuels and Engines
While the solid waste and recycling industry is investing in thousands of new trucks using altnernative fuels, most of the garbage and recycling trucks operating in the United States are still diesel powered. But truck manufacturers are making improvements there as well.
Ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel was adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a new standard for the sulfur content in on-road diesel fuel sold in the United States in October 2006. The allowable sulfur content for ULSD (15 ppm) is much lower than the previous U.S. on-road standard for low sulfur diesel (LSD, 500 ppm), which not only reduces emissions of sulfur compounds (a cause of acid rain), but also allows advanced air pollution control systems to be fitted that would otherwise be poisoned by these compounds. These systems greatly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. EPA estimates that the implementation of the new fuel standards for diesel will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 2.6 million tons each year and particulate matter by 110,000 tons a year.
Some regions are mandating additional changes to achieve even greater emission reductions. For example, diesel garbage trucks in Seattle and San Francisco are using a blend of ULSD and biodiesel, usually derived from vegetable oils.
With such a blend, emissions of fine particulates and toxic air pollutants can be reduced by as much as 90 percent compared to traditional diesel fuels.
Manufacturers of garbage truck engines also continue to improve diesel engine technology. The adoption of some of these advancements have been mandated by EPA regulations. In October 2002, EPA instituted the first of a multi-phased limit on the particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and non-methane hydrocarbons that new heavy-duty diesel engines could emit. In 2004, the rules were expanded to include medium- and light-duty diesel truck engines. In 2007, emission controls were raised further. The final phase-in of this set of regulations is planned for 2010; at that point, new diesel engines will produce less than 10 percent of the emissions of 2001 models. These emission reductions were achieved using various advanced technologies by different companies, including selective catalytic reduction, advanced exhaust gas recirculation, modified turbocharger rates, optimized combustion, and the careful calibration of electronic engine controls.
In addition to making their garbage and recycling trucks more efficient and environmentally friendly, solid waste companies are employing global positioning systems (GPS) technologies and software applications to optimize the efficiency of their routes/schedules. GPS is a tool that helps every driver find their way. But solid waste companies are using these systems to determine where customers are located, see the surrounding streets and roads, and help determine how long it will take the driver to reach the location or which stop should be first or last.
Are you surprised that there’s so much technology involved? We are a science-based industry that employs civil and environmental engineers, chemists, soil experts, biologists, geologists and hydrologists to protect today’s environment while developing the sustainable waste management practices of the future.
Want to learn more about the employees of America’s solid waste industry?