In 2019, the Township of Algonquin Highlands started testing the effectiveness and efficiency of using covers for 40-yard fibre recycling bins. The goal of the project was to assess whether a covered bin would improve the quality of materials and help avoid increases in processing costs.
Notices from the MRF indicated that wet materials would soon be refused and charged out as waste, at significant cost. It was expected that covered bin materials would contain less moisture resulting in improved quality. Additionally, the covers would help keep fibres better contained (less wind-blown paper litter).
Heavier fall through to spring
Analyzing 2016 and 2017 data, Algonquin Highlands recognized that open-topped roll-off bin weights were approximately 20-25% less during summer months when compared to spring, fall, and winter.
In the summer there is less rain, higher evaporation rates and/or more frequent hauling of bins. As bins are switched less frequently in the cooler seasons, rain/snow/ice can build up in the bins resulting in moister materials and higher bin weights.
Covered bins were operational in 2019. When comparing the weighted averages of the open bins for the last three years (2016-2019), the covered bins were 22% lighter.
“We were paying 20-25% more to process wet fiber loads sent to the MRF”
– Melissa Murray, Algonquin Highlands
Testing out new products can be daunting but has the potential to reap financial and other unexpected rewards. Considering processing savings and decreased bin movements, the estimated payback period for implementing only 2 covers was just shy of 5 years.
While navigating implementation of the new covered bins, Algonquin highlands learned:
- that ongoing communications with Council improved support through issues that arose;
- the importance of contingency funds within the budget for unexpected incidentals; and
- the value of having an extremely supportive collections contractor (kudos to Waste Connections Canada Bracebridge for providing cost considerate services and training drivers)
Operating the cover can be done by one person making it easy for site attendants and collections drivers to manage.
The cover is typically opened less than a metre wide while the site is open to the public and kept closed at all other times. This limited opening reduces the amount of snow/rain/vermin that enters the bin and keeps materials from blowing out of the bin.
The MRF reports that when covered bins are “tipped”, materials look clean and dry, with no blocks of snow or ice (as were typical in winter loads), and the loads “tip” quite easily. In the past there have been incidences where fibre loads were almost impossible to get out of bins as they were frozen into solid blocks.
“Chunks of frozen materials and snow cannot be sorted at the MRF and end up in residue increasing contamination rates and ultimately processing costs”
– George South, Waste Connections Canada, District Manager, Northern Ontario
Meanwhile at the site…
Attendants have reported that the cover is working well and, other than clearing snow off the cover, there have been no operational challenges. The public have not reported any issues with the new cover.
- Resident awareness – the bin cover makes it easy for site users to know where materials should go and also provides an added opportunity for promotion and education (when signage is securely mounted)
- Due to the size of the opening, residents need to flatten cardboard which allows more material in bins and less frequency of operating compaction equipment
- Improved containment of materials and reduced blown material from bins at depot (decreased labour associated with site litter pick-up)
- Improved unloading of materials at the MRF (ease of release from bin)
Based on the success of this project, Algonquin Highlands is planning to implement more covers on roll-off bins and is also watching other future possible savings related to bin maintenance and longevity.