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Trash pickup could go high-tech in South Hills

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Picking up the trash in some South Hills communities could get more high-tech next year.

Uniform collection bins at each home and garbage trucks with a mechanical arm might lift a bin so there is no need for the driver to even leave the truck.

“This is an evolution,” said Lou Gorski, South Hills Area Council of Governments executive director.

When 17 municipalities and the Moon Township Municipal Authority enter into a new five-year garbage and recycling contract, set to begin in January — currently being bid through the South Hills Area Council of Governments, or SHACOG — there could be visible changes.

Contracts for municipalities that bid through SHACOG's previous-joint purchasing alliance for refuse collection are set to end Dec. 31, Gorski said.

The previous five-year contract had been awarded to both Allied Waste Services and Waste Management, depending on if municipalities purchased on a per-ton or per-unit basis.

Bids will be opened during a public meeting on Oct. 2 at the Whitehall Borough building.

Each municipality participating in the contract, including Baldwin Borough, Jefferson Hills, Mt. Lebanon, Brentwood and Whitehall, submitted specifications for collection services, Gorski said. Industry representatives have said this contract — which includes trash collection for 95,711 housing units — likely is worth about $70 million over the next five years, Gorski said.

What that means for each municipality is unknown until the bids come in, Gorski said.

“Providing this service is one of the largest items in the municipality's budget each year,” he said.

At a prebidding meeting four companies expressed an interest — Allied Waste Services, Waste Management, Advanced Solutions and R.R. Waste Services, Gorski said.

The cost might lead some communities to switch the collection method, leaders said.

The option of automated rubbish and recycling collection was presented five years ago in the SHACOG contract, Gorski said. There was little interest and no takers. This year, things might be different.

“I just need to see what the numbers are,” said Baldwin Township manager Rob Zahorchak. “From what I've heard from the haulers is that they're looking to push it for the safety of their drivers and to reduce costs.”

Baldwin Township spent $116,000 in 2012 on garbage collection. Residents this year are being billed $120 per household for refuse collection. The township does not have curbside recycling. If automated collection would reduce cost or allow curbside recycling at a reasonable cost, officials might consider it, Zahorchak said.

Officials in Baldwin Township, Jefferson Hills, Mt. Lebanon, Scott Township and Upper St. Clair expressed an interest in automated rubbish and recycling collection, Gorski said.

Baldwin Borough, Peters Township and Whitehall officials said they might be interested in automated recycling collection only, he said.

Automated collection is not new to the region, said Erika Deyarmin, public-affairs coordinator with Waste Management. Seven municipalities in the North Hills Council of Governments began using automated collection in June, she said.

Not every municipality is eligible for automated collection, she said.

“The trucks need to be able to get to the sidewalks,” Deyarmin said.

If communities bidding through SHACOG were to move forward with the option, participating towns would get one 65-gallon container per home, Deyarmin said.

The communities would have several options: They could purchase them from the hauler, lease from the hauler or buy from an outside vendor, Zahorchak said.

Each truck has a mechanical arm on its side that would extend to pick up the container and lift it to the side of the truck and dump the trash or recycling contents inside. This improves efficiency and safety for drivers, Deyarmin said.

Even if communities expressed an interest, that doesn't mean they will select the option.

“We'd be crazy not to consider it if there's a major cost savings,” Whitehall manager James Leventry said. Baldwin Borough was identified as a municipality that could have automated collection, borough manager John Barrett told council members.

“But it may not work. It's going to depend on the streets and parking on the streets,” Barrett said. “We're going to get prices both ways.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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