New City Initiatives Battle Waste & Emissions

More and more cities are looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. Sweeping has long been known to have a positive affect on the environment, both with air and water quality. Studies have been performed and have proven its positive impact. As a result of this and national initiatives, cities have adopted plans that require more frequent sweeping. Cities have also begun developing other plans to have a positive affect on the environment.

The City of Austin developed a Zero Waste 30-year plan last year. The plan calls for Austin Resource Recovery to get to zero waste by 2040. “Austin Resource Recovery is transforming from an agency focused on waste management collection to one focused on materials resource management,” said Bob Gedert, Austin Resource Recovery Director in a press release. “This Master Plan is the road map to get us to Zero Waste.”

Street sweeping plays a part in the plan in section 13.3. The plan states, “The Street Cleaning unit provides frequent street and boulevard sweeping throughout the entire city. The street sweeping system is designed to clean the gutters and limit contaminants from polluting Austin’s creeks and drainage ways. Street sweeping allows for removal of discarded materials, litter, and dirt from streets and roadways for health, safety, aesthetic, and water quality reasons.” This is in conjunction with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) as well.

“One of the reasons for doing all of the residential streets is that it is a part of the storm water management plan,” says Vidal Maldonado, Litter Abatement division manager for Austin Resource Recovery. “We are trying to keep anything that will affect water quality from going down our storm drains as a part of the national plan. We sweep all residential curb streets every other month for a total of six times per year. Main thoroughfares are swept monthly. We are also looking at better ways to route the sweepers to increase efficiency, save fuel, and reduce our carbon footprint.”

The city has also implemented a public notice program to inform residents when to clear the roadways for street sweeping. Parked cars hinder their efforts to clean the storm drainage areas near street curbs.

One of the things that some cities have been concerned with is the air quality of sweepers. Although it has been proven through studies that sweepers help with water quality and vacuum sweepers improve air quality, some are still concerned with the emissions of the sweepers themselves.

“Because of the city’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gases, we are switching our sweepers to CNG on our typical replacement plan,” says Maldonado. “Currently, we have four CNG sweepers and are planning on buying four more this coming year. One of the challenges of adding new CNG sweepers is the number of slow-fill hook ups that we currently have. We do have plans to increase the slow-fill at the yard, and there are plans to build a fast-fill station in North Austin so that we don’t have to drive all the way back to South Austin to refuel, which will save time and emissions.” Right now, we also have one fast-fill station that was put in across the street when we first acquired the trucks.

Maldonado is quite happy with the CNG sweepers. “We have Schwarze and Tymco sweepers. The Schwarze CNG sweepers that we have are just like the other sweepers. They are a little bit longer because the CNG tanks are placed behind the cab. It does affect the turning radius of the sweepers because of the added length, but they operate exactly the same as the diesel models.”

“We’ve also been looking into high dump sweepers,” says Maldonado. “Right now, we have to drive to a location to dump the debris on the ground and then we have a dump truck with a front-end loader pick it up. The high dump will allow the dump trucks to go to where the sweepers are, thus increasing the time sweeping. It may even allow us to increase the frequency of our sweeping cycles. This hasn’t received final approval yet, but I think that the savings in fuel and productivity should sell it.”

In fact, as a part of the plan, city vehicles are switching to CNG and hybrid models. “CNG is one part of it. The garbage trucks as well as other trucks are going CNG, and we also have some hybrid hydraulic assist vehicles to reduce emissions.”

The city started with residential recycling as a way to reduce landfill costs. But, in an effort to lead the state in waste reduction, it has expanded the program. The goal is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 90 percent by 2040. “This year, we are widening our residential recycling program to include additional metals, including aluminum baking tins and trays, pie plates, and aluminum foil,” says Maldonado. “Pots and pans and other larger items may be added in the future.”

New recycling requirements, called the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) also went into effect October 1 for property owners and managers. According to their site, “property owners of large commercial office buildings and multi-family properties are required to ensure their tenants and employees have access to compliant recycling programs. Each year, the URO requires smaller properties to recycle and by 2015 the ordinance will affect more than 4,500 properties.”

The requirements call for these property owners and managers to submit recycling plans by February 1, collection of recyclable materials, exterior recycling containers, signs explaining the recycling program in English and Spanish, and yearly education for tenants and employees. These properties are required to recycle the following materials: paper (including mixed paper and office paper); plastic bottles grades 1 (PETE) and 2 (HDPE); corrugated cardboard; aluminum cans; and glass bottles and jars.

Phase 2 will begin after October 1, 2013 and will likely include properties in the food and beverage industry, retail stores and grocers, hotels and motels, and industrial and manufacturing facilities.

Whether you are a contract sweeper for a municipality or a city, the City of Austin’s plan is a good one to view. You can find the city’s plan at Information on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System can be found at

Story by Jennifer Taylor


For More Information
—Schwarze, visit
—Tymco, visit