Business - July 30, 2017

Seminole switching to natural-gas garbage trucks

Seminole County residents soon will notice that garbage trucks cruising through their neighborhoods sound quieter and belch out less exhaust.

That’s because county commissioners recently mandated that Seminole’s two waste-hauling companies replace their aging fleet of diesel garbage trucks with those that run on compressed natural gas, more commonly known as CNG, over the next three years.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Seminole Commissioner Bob Dallari said. “This is a big win for the environment and for the community because CNG is a more cost stable fuel.”

Seminole joins other Central Florida governments, including Orange County, Orlando and Apopka in a growing nationwide movement by governments to move toward environmentally-friendly vehicles.

The Lynx regional bus company agreed in 2014 to convert its fleet to compressed natural gas over a seven-year period. Today, 70 of Lynx’s 313 buses run on compressed natural gas.

CNG is a cleaner burning fuel that makes engines run 90 percent quieter and has lower harmful emissions — such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases — than diesel fuel.

Also, the price of CNG tends to be cheaper and more stable than prices for oil and diesel fuels, county leaders pointed out. For example, the price of a gasoline-equivalent gallon of compressed natural gas was listed at about $2.20 last week. The price for a gallon of diesel was about $2.35.

Waste Pro of Florida and Advanced Disposal Services, which handle residential garbage and yard waste pickups for the roughly 65,000 homes in the unincorporated areas of the county, will be required to replace their aging diesel trucks with new CNG trucks by the of end of 2020.

Waste Pro has about 20 trucks and Advanced Disposal has about 10 trucks that service residential neighborhoods of Seminole County. The mandate won’t apply to recycling trucks or those that pick up commercial trash, according to contracts approved Tuesday by Seminole commissioners.

Although the price of CNG may be cheaper, each natural-gas operated truck costs about $375,000 new, roughly $50,000 more than a diesel burning truck. But CNG trucks tend to last longer and have lower maintenance costs, Waste Pro officials said.

Increases to residential bills are pegged to the consumer price index and fuel costs, and not to equipment purchases, such as new trucks, by the waste-hauling companies, county officials said.

Advanced Disposal began switching its fleet to CNG several years ago and today 95 of its CNG garbage trucks operate throughout Florida, including in Orange County, Fort Myers and St. Augustine.

“Taking a diesel truck off the road and replacing it with a CNG truck is the equivalent of taking 325 cars off the road,” said Mark Nighbor, vice president of marketing and communications for Advanced Disposal in Ponte Vedra.

Advanced Disposal recently opened a new facility that includes a CNG fueling station at 5722 N. Pine Hills Road in Orlando. Waste Pro also opened a new CNG facility on St. Johns Parkway in Sanford.

In 2015, Orange County required its waste haulers to use a fleet of CNG trucks. Today, all 114 garbage trucks from three companies run on CNG, servicing about 210,000 customers in Orange.

Jim Becker, Orange’s solid waste director, said a customer even complained the new CNG garbage trucks were too quiet, and that he used the louder diesel trucks to wake him up in the morning.

Johnny Edwards, Seminole’s interim solid waste manager, said he’s looking forward to the quieter trucks.

“Every now and then we get complaints about the [garbage] trucks being too loud,” he said. “But these new trucks will run on a quieter and cleaner burning fuel.” or 407-420-571

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