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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