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GPS may make trash pickup more efficient

POSTED: May 13, 2009 10:56 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Billy Carter, supervisor for the city of Gainesville Solid Waste Management, demonstrates how to use the new GeoTech Pinpoint system.

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Instead of having a diesel truck ride up and down city streets looking for metal and limbs on the curbs, the Gainesville solid waste employee driving the truck will soon be able to go straight to the homes with metal scraps on the curb "and he’s through," said Danny Owen, manager of Gainesville’s Solid Waste Division.

"Then we can put him on something else, some of these brush piles or something else," Owen said.

The city’s solid waste division has sought out a way to make waste collection a more efficient process.

The division soon will start using seven Global Positioning Systems called GeoTech Pinpoint field units to help employees map out which homes have brush piles, scrap metal or illegal waste at the curb with nothing but the touch of a screen.

Owen said the city purchased the system with the belief that it would save the city money on fuel and allow solid waste employees to finish their routes more efficiently.

When the department starts using it full time, the PDA-sized system will go in each of the six trucks that collect garbage on the city’s three garbage routes. As garbage collectors ride the city’s streets picking up bagged household garbage, they will record the homes that also have brush piles or other garbage on the curb that the garbage trucks aren’t equipped to handle by touching the screen on the GeoTech Pinpoint device.

The device is equipped with a GPS, making recording addresses an unnecessary step in the process, and can record which type of truck needs to pick up the pile, Owen said. Once garbage collectors return to the solid waste offices, the information can be transmitted to a computer where work orders can be printed off and given to those responsible for picking up the different types of waste.

Before, garbage collection employees would have to pause on their routes to make written lists of the homes with other types of waste on the curb. The process made routes last longer, Owen said.

"Instead of either sitting on the side of the road on the telephone calling here, stopping what (a secretary’s) doing taking the message or sitting on the side of the road writing it down — such and such address, this is what I saw, date and time and everything — now, they can just hit that moving. As they see it they can just hit the button and keep moving," Owen said.

The program is still in its "infant stages" in Gainesville, with solid waste officials still testing how to use it best for the city’s needs, Owen said. But so far in testing the product, Owen said the system has allowed garbage collectors to record more homes with curbside piles.

Owen believes the system should make garbage collection more efficient and allow the division to eliminate one crew.

Gainesville is one of the first three cities in the state to use the system, which has been touted as a successful program in South Carolina, according to Pam Helton, the local government marketing manager for Georgia Municipal Association.

Toccoa officials started using the product late last year and "immediately saw results," Helton said.

Gainesville council members learned about the system earlier this year at a Georgia Municipal Association conference, Owen said.

"We think it’s just a great tool," Helton said.

Government officials in Columbus, Marietta and Tifton also have shown interest in giving the product a try, Helton said.

"I expect it will continue to grow as everybody becomes more aware of it," she said.



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