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Automated Garbage Trucks Hitting Cedar Rapids Streets

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Some new automation hitting the streets now in Cedar Rapids means garbage customers will have to change habits when they put out the trash.

Within the coming week, Cedar Rapids Solid Waste will have an entire fleet of seven new, fully automated garbage trucks in service. Each truck, costing about $250,000, will have a single driver and operator with no extra workers riding along to load the garbage. Instead, the operator will use a joystick-like control to operate hydraulic arms that reach out from the side of the truck and grab each container.

Solid waste officials said going to a fully automated system will eliminate nine jobs over the next few years through attrition. One driver, Matt Fowler, said it also means residents will have to help out by remembering a few rules.

For one, truck operators need a clear space to grab the container so customers shouldn't park vehicles in front of where they put out the trash. And customers also need to space containers apart instead of bunching them together.

"We ask for at least three to five feet of spacing, just to keep everything from getting knocked over and spilled—stuff like that," Fowler said.

The new system will also allow residents to put an extra bag of garbage on top the "GARBY" container lid. Extra bags of trash must display the stickers sold by the city.

City officials estimate garbage crew members lift about 10,000 lbs. of trash every day on routes. And it used to be one of the more injury-prone city jobs. Workers say going automated will eliminate a lot of back aches.

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