The city is about to spend $20 million on garbage. But itís worth it, Solid Waste director Earl Gloster says.
All of the trash collected from city streets and homes makes a pit stop at a discreet dump site on Old Coachman Road before being hauled to Pinellas County Solid Waste in St. Petersburg.
That middle ground, the Solid Waste Transfer Station, is an aging, 47-year-old building using outdated technology and in need of an upgrade. Demolition will begin early next year, with a new $20.5 million facility expected to be built by the summer of 2019.
Gloster, who has led the department of 135 employees for nearly a decade, explains why we need this investment in trash.
So what exactly is a waste transfer station and why do we need a new one?
As we collect garbage from the routes, it goes to the transfer station and then it is sent on tractor-trailers to Pinellas County Solid Waste. Itís an efficiency thing, it keeps the route trucks here in the city. Rather than 60 to 70 trucks on the road from Clearwater to Pinellas County, itís typically just seven tractor trailers making the trip. But as we close down for demolition and rebuild, thatís what weíll have to do, and all of our trucks will be taking the garbage.
How much garbage are we talking about every day?
We process right now 350 to 400 tons per day. When it was originally built in 1970, it was built for a standard of 200 tons a day but, of course, the city has grown some since then. As the route trucks come in and dump, it gets loaded up so we never have much sitting there at once. The tractor-trailers hold three to four garbage trucks each. Once itís dumped, itís loaded on the tractor-trailer and itís out of there.
What improvements will come with the new station?
The major difference between the current station and the new one is the current station uses hydraulics. Garbage is dumped into a pit and there are hydraulic rams that push it into tractor-trailers. Itís an old technology and takes a lot to maintain. Thatís one of the things that drove us to make the decision to rebuild it.
The new station will be top-loaded. Basically, it will be a pit and trucks will be waiting down below. Itís driven by gravity, no hydraulics. It will be a large facility and can hold 300 tons if we need it to.
Do we really need a transfer station at all?
Itís an efficiency thing for us. It actually saves us roughly $3 million per year to have and operate a solid waste transfer station. We send seven trucks to the plant rather than 60 to 70. That helps the environment, not having that many additional vehicles on the road. Then thereís what I call the X-factor, the additional liability of having seven trucks making the trip rather than 60 to 70. Then there is the fuel and other operating costs with additional trucks and personnel.
Youíve been leading the department for nearly 10 years now, so what are some changes youíve noticed in the solid waste industry or in habits of the residents you serve?
The industry has evolved to where technology plays a leading role in how we use it to more efficiently and safely do our work. We have on-board camera systems to monitor driving habits, backup cameras to help us safely operate and GPS units on all of our vehicles, just to name a few. In addition, weíve converted most of our garbage and recycling fleet to compressed natural gas to reduce costs and our carbon footprint while operating.
Our residents have done an astounding job in increasing the amount that they recycle. Single-stream recycling and once-a-week garbage collection have both been successful in helping our residents reduce the amount of garbage we have to collect.
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.