MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When trash collection day comes to your neighborhood, you just might notice a difference in the sight, sound and smell of the trucks.

That’s because one of Minnesota’s largest waste haulers is committed to making its fleet both cleaner and greener. Republic Services, which collects the waste of customers formerly served by Allied Waste and BFI, has taken delivery of 23 new natural gas-powered vehicles.

The long-term payback will save both on fuel costs and be better for the air we breathe.

The trucks are powered by engines burning compressed natural gas or CNG. The gas is piped to the facility in Eden Prairie where it is stripped of any moisture. Then, a large 100 horsepower driven compressor takes the pressure and compresses it to over 3,600 pounds.

That gas is then put into a high pressure storage tank and distributed to the 23 individual “filling stations.”

Not only do the trucks burn up to 80 percent cleaner, reducing the ozone forming emissions, but the trucks are also much quieter while in operation.

“You’re not going to hear the truck coming down the road making a lot of noise. Also, you’re not going to see the black soot coming out of the top of the trucks,” Republic general manager John O’Neal said.

O’Neal says the trucks more expensive to purchase than similar models burning diesel, but the investment will have a quick payback in fuel savings and maintenance.

“We did have a large initial investment, but in subsequent years the investment will be a lot less, it will pay for itself over the next couple of years,” O’Neal said.

Refueling the fleet of 23 trucks is easier, too. At the end of the day, the drivers pull into designated parking slots where they simply attach a refueling hose and walk away. Gas flows from the pressurized supply tank and is computer monitored to place an exact amount of 3600 pounds of pressure into the trucks holding tanks. In essence, the fleet is refueled as drivers sleep.

“We run the compressor at night versus the day to save energy costs,” O’Neal added.

O’Neal says they’ll replace Republic’s entire fleet of waste trucks over the next four years — turning the business of waste into a clean and green collection machine.

Bill Hudson