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Birmingham Approves $1.1 Million Contract To Modernize Trash Collection

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(Photo by Greg Garrison/AL.com)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

The City of Birmingham will spend $1 million over the next three years to modernize its trash and recycling collection operations.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to approve a contract with Routeware, a Portland, Ore-based software company, to make the city’s garbage collection more efficient—paying the company $491,254 for the first year, $303,495 for the second and $327,894 for the third.

In total, the city will spend $1,122,643 to bring greater GPS capabilities, cameras and software to the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW). Joshua Yates, director of DPW, said the contract will reduce the number of complaints from residents about garbage pickup.

“Currently, running the city an entire day is a lot of waste and inefficient, and it leads to a lot of misses, so we get a lot of complaints on that. This [contract] help prevent that,” Yates said.

The software provides an “opt-in” recycling program. “Basically, when we get our data on recycling and who wants to recycle, we can build routes around that so we can make sure that we’re picking them up in an efficient and effective manner,” said the director.

There is also software that includes video surveillance. The cameras will record video of each stop along the trash collection routes, which provides a layer of accountability for both the trash collectors and residents, he said.

“When we go by the house, there is video basically showing that we did our job or what was out there that may have hindered us from doing our job.”

Tablets will also go in every trash collection vehicle to ensure that drivers know exactly how to follow their routes, Yates said.

“Each day, when we have drivers or supervisors leave, that’s historic knowledge that walks out the door with them…Anybody can get in there and go to the next house and the next house and the next house, and each one will pop up,” Yates said.

This new system strengthens the trash collection operations moving forward, according to officials.

“It is ultimately a tool that would help us build our infrastructure for the future, so that, as we move on our bulk, our waste our recycling, all of our waste management streams, that we have the infrastructure to support us, backed with routing, with accountability and efficiency measures,” Yates said.

The council’s approval of the new system comes on the heels of the $6.5 million purchase of 100,000 uniform trash bins for households in the city, of which the first 20,000 have been given out, according to the city.

Councilor Clinton Woods said he was excited by the move toward a more data-centric approach to operations. “Two or three years ago, we were in a budget hearing…but they had made a lot of  improvements in that area, but they couldn’t point to what worked or why, and it was just kind of the need to track that data,” Woods said.

Councilor Valerie Abbott said Yates was “bringing public works out of the dark ages, where everything was done manually and not as well as it could have been.”