garbage.jpgWhen I watch the garbage truck picking up bins it seems like they randomly empty black and blue bins in either the left (back) or the right (front) compartment. You would think that they have one compartment for recycling and one for the waste, but it doesn’t look like. What does a garbage truck look like from the inside – does it actually have two compartments? And why do I sort recycling/waste at home if they mix it together in the truck?

Your neighborhood garbage truck’s actions may seem “random,” but they’re not — that would be super illegal. According to Sunset Scavenger Company/Recology SF, the city’s primary waste collection service, most SF garbage trucks are split-body trucks: waste and recycling are both stored inside, separated by a metal barrier.

So, why does it seem like the driver drops your trash cart and your recycling cart in the same section of the truck? Because the driver lifts both carts (one at a time) via hydraulic “arm” to the same spot above the truck, while shifting the controls inside so that the compartments switch. Tricky!

Most experts believe that separate trucks for trash and recycling are ideal, due to numerous split-body issues that may arise: for example, trash and recyclables can accidentally merge, compartments can fill up at different rates, and the driver often has to make two separate trips to different unloading locations.

But in busy cities like San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine doubling the number of garbage trucks (we also have separate compost trucks, which can’t be combined within the split-body system) – picture what your street would look like in the morning! Not to mention, how loud it would be.

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  • Akit

    I’m a lot more concerned on why Sunset Scavenger (Recology) is skidding their tires in my neighborhood. Every week, fresh new skid marks are showing up, and it’s quite obvious it’s them because the skid marks show up every 10-15 feet.

  • Akit

    I’m a lot more concerned on why Sunset Scavenger (Recology) is skidding their tires in my neighborhood. Every week, fresh new skid marks are showing up, and it’s quite obvious it’s them because the skid marks show up every 10-15 feet.

  • Burgos

    The people in my building are too self-absorbed to use recycle bins or the composting bin; they toss everything down the chute and walk away.

  • Burgos

    The people in my building are too self-absorbed to use recycle bins or the composting bin; they toss everything down the chute and walk away.

  • variable455

    “trash and recyclables can accidentally merge”
    ….like City residents are 100% accurate when they sort their trash. Please. More mixing before the truck even comes by

    I can see into the truck from my window when the guy comes by. it looks like all the crap is going into the same space, but after the bin is emptied, the truck compresses it left or right depending on whether it’s garbage or recyclable.

    they also get $ for the recyclables, so it wouldn’t make sense to invest in the new trucks (remember the ones from the old days? everything went in the back) and not use them the way they were designed.

    see if you can catch the Dirty Jobs where they go to the SF dump and the SF composting center. it’s pretty interesting, and very very clear that they take recycling seriously.

  • variable455

    “trash and recyclables can accidentally merge”
    ….like City residents are 100% accurate when they sort their trash. Please. More mixing before the truck even comes by

    I can see into the truck from my window when the guy comes by. it looks like all the crap is going into the same space, but after the bin is emptied, the truck compresses it left or right depending on whether it’s garbage or recyclable.

    they also get $ for the recyclables, so it wouldn’t make sense to invest in the new trucks (remember the ones from the old days? everything went in the back) and not use them the way they were designed.

    see if you can catch the Dirty Jobs where they go to the SF dump and the SF composting center. it’s pretty interesting, and very very clear that they take recycling seriously.