Recycled Brushes, Brooms Lead to Greening of Sweeper Industry

Evidence of the growing “green” movement is everywhere. The way companies manufacture, package, and distribute their wares is important. From food cartons to aluminum water bottles, businesses are looking for ways to save on expenses while saving the environment.The same is true for manufacturers and distributors of brooms, brushes, and other equipment that serves the commercial sweeper industry. More and more often, the techniques they use to make and bring their products to consumers have plenty of “ability” words attached to their descriptions: “sustainability,” “recyclability,” “biodegradability.”You might say that the green movement has swept the sweeping world – at least in some corners.

A desire among customers to “go green” has been a significant factor in the development of new products for United Rotary Brush and their SmartSweeptm line of recyclable road brooms. United Rotary Brush is a family-based company that manufactures and sells road and runway rotary brooms as well as custom-engineered brush products for customers throughout North America and the world. The company has facilities in Lenexa, Kansas; Marysville, Ohio; Galt, California; and Barrie, Ontario.  And now, with the recent acquisition of American Rotary Broom, United Rotary Brush also has facilities in Escondido and Pomona, California. The company has made significant efforts to develop environmentally conscious products.

The company’s popular Turbolinetm  Gutter Brooms, for example, are completely recyclable. When they wear out, the contractor simply removes the tufts to recycle them.“We’ve received some really good feedback from customers, and we are already working on an updated version,” said Michelle Allen, of the company’s Marketing Department.

The Turbolinetm polygutter brooms weigh up to two-thirds less than standard wire gutter brooms and take up a third of the space, according to information provided by United Rotary Brush. That means lower shipping costs, reduced storage space, and a savings on wear and tear on hydraulic motors.“The design of TurbolinetmGutter Brooms makes them significantly easier to install, even on the job. All you replace are the tufts. The Turbolinetm plate stays in place. This reduces downtime and labor, which means lower costs,” according to United Rotary Brush. “You can also customize your gutter brooms for every season and sweeping condition and use any combination of poly, poly/wire or wire brushes.”

As the company’s website says, ““Keep the plate, change out the tufts. You decide which combination is right for your sweeping application.”
United Rotary Brush’s SmartSweeptm recyclable line includes not only Turbolinetm Gutter Brooms, but also UnitedProtm Strip Brooms. The brooms come in both center-sweep and spiral-sweep versions. Each is designed to improve debris collection, and they are made from 100-percent poly plastic back strips. They are easy to install and replace, and, because they are recyclable, they are environmentally friendly.

The development of the SmartSweeptm line of recyclable brooms resulted in large part from the United Rotary Brush’s wish to keep material out of landfills.The desire to be environmentally friendly seems to be a good partner with the overall focus of street and pavement sweeping: to keep litter, grit, and chemicals out of storm water systems, to protect wetlands, and to simply improve the aesthetics of city streets and gutters.United Rotary Brush describes its Turbolinetm Gutter Broom and UnitedProtm lines as products that “green” as well as clean the community.

Part of the move toward a recyclable line has been a growing movement among some municipalities to require green products, Allen explained.Cleaning materials, biofuel-operated machines, and similar “green-” manufactured goods are getting the backing of city councils and governing boards all across the country.“I feel as if it is the wave of the future,” Allen said. “We’re goingto see more and more cities move towards recyclability when given the choice.”
Schwarze Industries, one of the world’s largest sweeper manufacturers and a leader in sweeping technology, is another company focused on green products. The company, which is headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, manufactures street sweepers, parking lot sweepers, and road repair units; it operates in more than thirty-five countries, and in 1996, it opened a manufacturing facility in Brisbane, Australia.

It is no surprise that the company has developed several products that meet the needs of environmentally conscious clients. In fact, recently, the Water Pollution Control and Street departments in Lafayette, Indiana, purchased two Schwarze model DXR street sweepers. Although cities buy Schwarze sweepers all the timeit is the reason behind Lafayette’s decision that made this purchase stand out. The DZR is a waterless and dustless design, an environmentally friendly, year-round sweeping solution for the city.What sold the Water Pollution Control Department onhelping the Street Department purchase the DXR was the fact that the model contains and traps veryfine particulate matter, including PM-10 fines, which are known to contain a high percentage of heavy metals, phosphates, and other pollutants, according to a statement from Raymond Massey, director of sales and marketing.If those pollutants are neglected, they can wind up in storm water runoff and eventually find their way into the city’s sewers.

“If you don’t keep the streets clean, everything ends up in the sewers and eventually our rivers, lakes, and bays,” Kenny Martin, Schwarze Midwest Regional Sales Manager warned. “Many city departments are beginning to realize that it’s mutually beneficial to help each other out financially. Through the cooperation of the different departments and recognition of the benefit of having this equipment, everybody wins. The streets are clean, the storm drains stay clean, and you can capture materials that would have polluted the air.”

Another feature that some Schwarze machines have in the environmentally friendly arena is the WhisperWheel(SM) fan system. The innovative system allows Schwarze air sweepers to run seventy percent more quietly than conventional sweepers, reducing noise pollution. The system also uses up to twenty percent less fuel.

Still another company that is environmentally conscious is GreenSweeper, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee company that sells electric-powered parking lot sweeper units that “capture” power generated by truck engines, convert it to a steady electrical current, and send it to an industrial, three-phase motor that powers attached sweeping equipment. The company’s website boasts that the GreenSweeper is “maintenance free, worry free and emission free and totally clean.”
Compared to traditional gasoline-powered units, the GreenSweeper unit not only saves on fuel costs but also cuts down on noise pollution and the use of hazardous materials at work. The company says the unit uses a scant quart of gasoline from the truck tank engine for each hour of sweeping.

As is true in most industries, not everyone will see the issue the same way. Mike Dyck, General Manager of Masco Sweepers of Santa Clara, California, explained that while environmental issues are important, the true cost savings on some of the equipment is questionable.

“Environmental impact is something we are all very aware of today. ‘Green’ anything is a way to show how a manufacturer of a product is concerned about how these products affect the world around us.  In the sweeping industry,” he continued, “‘green sweepers’ have concentrated on sweepers that have been converted to natural gas or propane. These street sweepers that are converted are really not parking lot sweepers. Street sweeping and parking lot sweeping are completely different.Streetsweepers must be able to sweep up a complete array of materials found in a street (such as) sand, rock and gravel.

“On average, a parking lot sweeper sweeps litter and trash left behind by people shopping in a shopping center or wherever people park cars. Generally, heavy material such as sand is not found in parkingareas unless there is a heavy winter salting and sanding program. Most snow states are eliminating sanding for many reasons, including keeping the storm drains clean.”In other words, some of the sweepers that are converted to natural gas or propane are not suited for parking lot use. Their efficiency is based on how well they do the job, not necessarily on the type of fuel that powers the equipment.

Some truck/sweeper combinations are not considered typical “green” machines by environmental purists.

“Trash from parking lot sweeping weighs around 150 to 200 pounds per yard. The sweeper that sweeps parking lot trash is completely different than a street sweeper. The environmental footprint impact left by the Model 1600 Ford ranger is only 25 percent of what a converted street sweeper is. Fuel consumption, oil maintenance, wear on tires and brakes, wear on roads and paved surfaces, emissions, financial burden and general cost of maintenance are cut [by] 75 percent.”

Dyck said so-called “green” sweepers do have their place, however.

“From a ‘green’ point of view, operating a street sweeper converted to alternate fuel may be good for a street-sweeping application. Parking lot sweeping does not benefit from alternate fuel application. Small gas engine truck[s] and operating on a fuel-efficient gas auxiliary motor emit only a quarter of emissions, one-third the oil maintenance cost, one-third of the weight impact on a parking structure, and the most important green (factor) is [that] the cost is a quarter to a third” of green equipment, he said.

“Environmentally, this sweeping process is being overlooked because of political pressure putting attention on alternate fuels. There is no greener parking lot sweeper on the market today (than Masco). All this adds up to a greener sweeper with a light earth footprint.”

No doubt sweeping component manufacturers and others in the road and parking lot sweeping industry will continue to look for ways to meet the “green” demands of consumers yet balance cost and maintenance issues with other environmental factors. Such technology can save money – sometimes – in fuel and shipping costs, while reducing or eliminating noise and emissions.

The price in some cases can be costly—or at least higher than conventional units. But the savings in the long-run, through lower fuel and maintenance expenses, can be an appealing factor. If cities begin requiring or start leaning toward increased use of environmentally friendly products, watch out: sustainability, recyclability, and biodegradability will be joined by a fourth and an important factor—marketability.


Story by Marie Elium