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Greener Garbage

January 6, 2010

A waste removal company based out of Hopkins is working to create a greener, cheaper system of garbage collection. The feature of a Star Tribune article earlier this week, GarbageMan employs lighter, more fuel-efficient trucks to pick up its customers’ trash, with the intent of reducing carbon emissions while inflicting less wear-and-tear on the roads on its routes. A GarbageMan truck weighs about 18,000 pounds, compared to the 60,000 pounds most garbage trucks weigh.

Another aspect of GarbageMan that sets it apart from other waste management companies is its plan to begin charging customers by the weight of their waste, rather than the standard flat-fee most people pay now. The idea, according to GarbageMan President Andrew Sorenson, is to encourage recycling by giving customers a financial incentive to produce less waste. The company hopes to begin using the new payment scale by the end of the year. For now, GarbageMan only services residents of communities with privatized trash collection. But, according to the article, the company hopes to begin citywide contract work as its unique business model catches on.

The pay-by-weight system does raise some concerns, however. Incentivizing people to throw less waste in their trash cans may lead to more garbage being improperly disposed of, illegally dumped, or even flushed down the toilet. It may also encourage the use of garbage disposals, which consume unnecessary water and increase the biochemical oxygen demand in sewage, which in turn increases the amount of chemicals used by sewage treatment plants. And, if this method is adopted as the sole means of trash disposal in cities, the implications on low-income families and residents of apartment buildings must be considered. Yet it is refreshing to see a company devoted to changing a system that, with the exception of a few local companies, has remained static for far too long.

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