Residents Want Trash Man, Not Robot

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Residents in several Fort Smith neighborhoods are fighting to keep manual trash pickup. The Fort Smith Department of Sanitation says bills could go up if they do not allow machines to do the dirty work.

A metal machine picks up trash at around 86-percent of homes in Fort Smith. City directors will decide Tuesday night if the remaining neighborhoods must also convert to automated pickup. “It’s worked for years. Why break it?” said Carolyn Plank, of Fort Smith.

Plank’s house backs up to an ally. The machine is too big for the ally, so workers must manually pickup her garbage. Plank started a petition to keep manual pickup. She said, “We just want to keep the ally trash pickup because it’s more convenient for us.”

Residents must put their garbage cans out front for the machine to pick up. “Some people it would be absolutely impossible for them to get their trash out to the front,” said Plank.

Baridi Nkokheli, director of the Fort Smith Department of Sanitation, says over the past five years they have had 48 people injured doing manual trash pickup. Nkokheli says they have not had any injuries with automated trash pickup.

Nkokheli says automated trash pickup saves manpower and money. He said, “It can actually outperform our personnel.”

Nkokheli says three city employees can pick up garbage at between 650 and 700 houses a day. One person operating the machine can do almost twice the work. “One employee in an automated truck can pick up to 1100 houses in a day,” said Nkokheli.

Plank plans to pass on the petition signatures to each city director.

The city says about 20 neighborhoods have not converted to automated trash pickup.