Automated Waste Collection Sucks – But That’s Good

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Pneumatic waste collection

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Imagine a futuristic world, where you simply place your recyclables and trash into vacuum tubes that suck your junk to a better place.

No more having to lug the blue box to the curb in the dead of winter, or having to clean up your trash after a raccoon or other animal rips open your garbage bags, which you left on the edge of your lawn for pickup.

No more having to sit in traffic behind a stinky garbage truck either – that’s never any fun.

Automated Solid Waste Collection Systems might seem like the stuff right out of a sci-fi movie, but they are growing in popularity in Europe, and may one day become the norm in North America too.

Also known as pneumatic refuse collection, and Automated Vacuum Collection (AVAC) systems, they don’t just eliminate backache from having to carry household recyclables and waste to the curb, they eliminate the greenhouse emissions given off by having trucks constantly stopping and going around neighborhoods for pickup.


How It Works

Your future home may have inlets in it, outside at the curb, or a central set of inlets for everyone on your street or neighborhood. There are typically waste collection inlets for mixed waste (traditional trash), organic waste (stuff that can be composted) and paper waste (which can be recycled).

You simply place your household waste into the corresponding waste collection inlet. Each inlet is has a vacuum sealed container, which upon reaching a certain level, or at a specific time and day, is automatically flushed.

When the waste collection container is flushed, the waste is carried along underground high-speed pipes via vacuum pressure to municipal recycling, composting and waste facilities. The waste can travel in excess of 97 KM/Hour (60 MPH) through these tubes.

Your household waste literally is sucked via vacuum tubes to be properly disposed of – recycled, composted or processed as garbage.

These automated waste collection systems can last up to 60 years, reduce the amount of people needed to collect the waste, and reduce the environmental impact of collecting of our trash – say good-bye to the garbage man (or woman) hanging precariously off the back of a stinky truck.

Developed in Sweden in 1961, the first automated waste collection system began sucking trash from homes in 1965 in the newly built residential district of Ör-Hallonbergen.

Today, about a thousand of these vacuum tube disposal systems are happily sucking waste around the world, from Asia to the Middle East, Europe and even some in North America.

Disney Solid Waste CollectionThe United States started sucking trash in 1969, under what today sounds like some National Security Administration (NSA) top-secret spy mission. “Operation Breakthrough” was the United States’ Department of Housing and Urban Development plan to install an automated waste collection system into a new 500-unit housing project in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was completed in 1974 in what is now called Summit Plaza.

However, the Wonderful World of Disney beat the American government, installing an automatic waste collection system at Disney World, which began running in 1971.

As gas prices continue to rise, and concerns over smog and traffic build in our cities, these automatic waste disposal systems are seeing a revision of interest, especially in Europe where they are popping up in Finland and other small and isolated communities.

Helsinki is planning a huge automated waste collection system, spanning 200 hectares (approximately 494 acres), 16,000 residents, and about 6,000 workplaces. They are planning about 350 waste inlet collection points, able to carry about 22,000 kg (about 48,502 LBS) of waste daily, and the project is due to be completed in 2023.

Even in Canada’s largest city, the idea of sucking waste has been considered.

In 2008, the City of Toronto considered using this vacuum waste technology for a new terminal at Canada’s largest airport, Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport, the redevelopment of Regent Park (a housing project in the city) and at the city’s touristy waterfront.

Back then, the city concluded that although it was a novel idea, an automated waste collection system wouldn’t be able to handle large pieces of waste, which would still require trucks to pick it up.

So, as with many political decisions, the idea was shelved and hasn’t been discussed since.

However, as North American cities continue to struggle to find solutions to traffic, pollution and waste management, automatic waste collection systems may be just the old tech to put a new spin on solving some of these issues.

What do you think? Leave a comment!