When two Massachusetts towns decided to begin collecting organics from residents, Hiltz Waste Disposal and Recycling, Gloucester, Massachusetts, did what any company that wants to stay in business would do: figured out a way to adapt to the change.
Rather than purchase new vehicles, Hiltz retrofitted two of its residential curbside collection trucks to accommodate the source-separated organics, says John Tognazzi, an operations manager who has been with Hiltz for 34 years.
Hiltz Waste Disposal is a family-owned and operated company located on 6 acres, which includes an office building, its Essex County Recycle Center and a maintenance facility, about 32 miles from Boston.
In business since 1972, Hiltz has been resold a couple of times. (The company landed back in family hands in 1999.) Today, the company collects single-stream recyclables, waste and organics throughout eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire with its fleet of 65 trucks.
Hiltz started collecting organics from residents in the Massachusetts towns of Hamilton and Wenham in 2012. After observing those cities’ successes in organics collection, the Massachusetts town of Manchester by the Sea opted to make it mandatory to separate organics for curbside collection in April 2014, Tognazzi says.
As a result of the changes Hiltz made to its residential collection trucks, and the efforts of residents, organics collection has been clean and rewarding, Tognazzi says.
Tognazzi explains that accepting the challenges associated with collecting organics was the company’s only option.
“Organics we had to get into; we didn’t have a choice. The towns wanted to go that way,” he states.
Tognazzi continues, “Where I was their contractor, if I said, ‘No we don’t want to do organics,’ the towns would have looked for another company to do the job, and we had the chance of losing the contract.”
He adds that the decision was easier when Hiltz considered its 32-cubic-yard McNeilus, Dodge Center, Minnesota, split-body rear loader. The vehicle already was split 40/60 to collect recyclables and waste, respectively, in one trip. “I thought: ‘That’d be perfect for organics,’” Tognazzi recalls.
Hiltz had McNeilus incorporate parts of the truck manufacturer’s Organics Package, and now the split-body vehicle handles 40 percent organics and 60 percent recyclables.
The company also had a truck from Heil, Chattanooga, Tennessee, retrofitted by that manufacturer to collect organics.
Loads of liquid
The Organics Package “is a solution for the collection of refuse that contains a lot of liquid,” says Duane Speikers, product manager of rear loaders for McNeilus. The package offers four features that aid in collecting organics, with a focus on preventing liquid from escaping the hopper body. Those features include:
- sweep panel seals and brush skirting;
- load edge extensions that increase the height of the hopper edge;
- an extended tailgate seal (An average seal extends 32 inches, while the Organics Package features a 97-inch extension.); and
- a standard 60-gallon leachate tank with 4-inch drain lines. (Typical drain lines are 2 inches, Speikers says.)
He says the Organics Package derived from a direct partnership with the company’s customers, “who are experiencing consequences of collecting organic loads with liquid in them.” Speikers points out that the retrofit transition is short and the cost of entry is low as the package can be “folded into fleets seamlessly.”
He says, “We did it to allow the waste operators to address the challenge of collecting organics without investing in an entirely new technology. It allows them to use their existing fleet.”
Speikers reiterates Tognazzi’s point that regions are requiring organics collections, saying, “There are a lot of municipalities and cities that are passing programs by which they’re requiring collection of organic loads. Waste collectors have to respond to those quickly without imposing a great deal of cost onto their customers.”
He continues, “Those who can do it with flexibility and minimize their costs will win business over those who can’t.”
While some truck manufacturers have options available to facilitate organics collection, they may not offer a solution to prevent liquids from escaping the vehicle, Speikers says. “That’s one of the primary points of hazard when it comes to collecting an organics load: Liquids will eject out behind the vehicle and come into contact with people’s cars and can go sideways and land on people’s property.”
With its the additional sealing in the packing function of the hopper, the Organics Package is unique, Speikers says, adding, “No one has actually done that.”
This solution saves collection truck drivers time, he says, because they don’t have to slow down to prevent liquids from sloshing out of the back from stop to stop.
Some haulers have to employ cleanup crews that follow the collection trucks to clean leaked liquids from the road. Not having that extra truck saves companies time and money. It also prevents a bad reputation that can arise from leaving that liquid on the roadway, Speikers says.
When it comes to residential collection trucks, Hiltz Waste Disposal and Recycling, Gloucester, Massachusetts, traditionally has used the same three manufacturers in its operations: St. Nicolas, Quebec-based Labrie Group’s Leach brand; Heil, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing Inc., Dodge Center, Minnesota.
John Tognazzi, Hiltz’s operations manager, says the company uses a mix of side loaders, split-body rear loaders and front loaders, some of which are equipped with the Environmental Solutions Group’s (ESG’s) Curotto-Can, an attachment that features an automatic arm with a 5-foot reach that converts a commercial truck into a residential collection vehicle.
While Tognazzi recognizes that McNeilus “has always had a good rear loader” he says for a long time the equipment manufacturer did not have a service center in the area surrounding Hiltz’s location, which is about 30 miles from Boston.
“Once McNeilus started getting service centers and mobile service people, we’ve started buying more [McNeilus] trucks,” Tognazzi says.
To further aid its customers, in June 2015 McNeilus introduced its Street Smart Service that now offers a new Technical Support Center hotline. This hotline provides access to a team of technical product experts and parts support services, McNeilus says. Customers who call the hotline can receive support for collection trucks as well as get replacement parts for all McNeilus makes and models.
The hotline can be accessed by calling 888-686-7278.
For Hiltz, this feature has been a highlight of incorporating components of the Organics Package. Tognazzi says Hiltz doesn’t have any leaks resulting from its organics collections and the company has never had to have street sweepers clean up after a collection route.
“In the back of the truck, we’ve raised the lip of the truck so you don’t get the splash out of the back, it instead goes into the hopper, and we put a holding tank under the one side,” Tognazzi says.
As the only residential curbside organics collector in New England, Tognazzi says Hiltz runs its organics routes the same as its recycling and waste collection routes. Residents place organics—including food, such as eggshells and tea bags, and plant materials, such as leaves and weeds— in a 13-gallon Green Bin organics container made by Orbis, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, with two wheels and latched closure. Hiltz drivers first grab single-stream bins by hand and toss their contents into the larger compartment at the back of the truck. They then dump the organics material into the truck’s other compartment. For accuracy, each side is labeled “recycling” and “organics.”
Tognazzi credits Hiltz’s low contamination levels in the collected organics to the company’s drivers and the cities’ residents. Hiltz drivers manually collect organics and recycling, and if they recognize contamination, they will put an orange sticker marked “rejection” on the bin to let the resident know about contamination.
“Now the neighbor sees the rejection sticker, and the person says, ‘I don’t want to get another one of those,” Tognazzi says. “We have very little contamination on the single -stream side and the organics side.”
As for the cities’ residents, they put in the effort, and it shows.
The town of Hamilton has “a really good” recycling coordinator who also helps with recycling efforts for Wenham and Manchester, Tognazzi says. He describes how the towns publish encouraging statements to boost residents’ enthusiasm for recycling, such as acknowledging how much residents recycled and composted in one month compared with the prior month. They use signs like those used by police departments to display a driver’s speed and change the message to something like, “Remember about food waste collection Monday,” Tognazzi says.
“They just keep hammering people with the information,” he says.
The dedication of residents is apparent when Tognazzi notes that in June 2015 Hiltz collected more than 29 tons of food waste in Hamilton, an increase from the 24.5 tons the company collected in the town in June 2014.
In addition, the increase has helped to better Hiltz’s relationship with the composting farm, located in Hamilton, where the company sends all of its organics. The composting farm uses the organics to make soil, which it sells.
Tognazzi says he sees organics collection increasing over the years.
Speikers says residential organics streams are “rich sources for blending depleted top soils.
“As the circle of value expands, traditional food waste will be looked at as a source of value and not more landfill waste,” he predicts.
The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via email at email@example.com.