Ryan Hefford drives a garbage truck for the City of Edmonton. It’s an important job. He’s also really good at video games. Now, those two skills go hand in arm.
“I grew up playing video games,” said Hefford. “So, when the chance came to work in the Cart Rollout pilot project, I put up my hand.”
Hefford runs truck B-3664 in the City’s garbage truck fleet. It’s equipped with a mechanical arm designed to grab, lift, dump and return to the ground the garbage and food scraps carts that all Edmontonians will soon be using. The arm is operated by a video-game-style joystick in the cab.
“It’s, basically, up-down, open-close, out-in to activate the arm and operate the fingers to grab the carts and then tip the stuff in the carts into the truck,” said Hefford.
In 2020, Hefford and his truck were part of a pilot project where residents of 13 neighbourhoods tested out the new carts. Black cart for garbage. Green cart for food scraps and other organics.
“The whole idea is to stop sending food scraps, which can be made into compost, into the landfill with the rest of garbage, taking up valuable space and generating greenhouse gas emissions.” – Ryan Hefford
The mechanical arm means he and his colleagues are safer from the wear and tear of the heavy lifting. Some days, when he used to pick up garbage by hand, Hefford was lifting up to 20,000 kg a day.
The carts, along with a pail to collect food scraps in the kitchen, are being rolled out to Edmonton residences this year.
Hefford has two reminders and a tip for people learning to live with the carts.
Reminder #1: Space your carts properly at the curb or the alley when setting out your carts for collection. Keep one metre of distance between the carts, and between the carts and any structure like a fence, a pole, a vehicle or even a snowbank. That gives operators the room to maneuver the mechanical arm safely, without spilling or damaging anything.
Reminder #2: Put the right refuse items in the right carts, and not so much that the lids can’t close. The City has a handy WasteWise app where you can search any item and find out where it goes! Download the app for free from the App Store or Google Play, or use it online at edmonton.ca/waste.
Tip #1: Have a plan for cold weather and organics.
“One thing that I saw in the pilot program was what happens when you take food scraps from your warm kitchen and put them directly into a cold cart on pickup day,” said Hefford.
Spoiler: the food scraps can freeze to the inside of the cart.
“I can give the mechanical arm a flick, but that might not always be enough to get things unstuck,” said Hefford.
Hefford has seen how people have improvised by lining their food scraps cart with paper, sometimes even taping it in, and then dumping the food scraps, frozen or not, in.
From his time in pilot project neighbourhoods, including Kiniski Gardens, Tamarack, Ellerslie and Delwood, Hefford saw first-hand how quickly Edmontonians adapt to the new carts.
“In my opinion, this is such a great thing,” he said. “At the beginning there’s a bit of learning, but people do learn and the City helps educate. At the end of the pilot, it was 100 percent better.”
Video from Ellerslie
Take a look at how cooperation in the cab and on the curb makes for a smooth cart pickup experience:
Editor’s note: the picture at the top of the post shows the City of Edmonton’s Ryan Hefford at the Kennedale Yard in northeast Edmonton.