The City Council has moved closer to permanently adopting a new trash pickup program that city officials said could save Whittier more than $600,000 during the next decade. Council members have agreed to purchase one of the program’s $120,000 automated trash trucks and extend the program for three months before deciding its future in mid-December.

Lou Sandoval, the city’s director of public services, said he believes the council’s recent action indicates the program may be expanded to other parts of Whittier.

Six months ago, city officials launched the pilot program in five neighborhoods, spending $189,964 to lease two special trash trucks and nearly 1,000 300-gallon trash cans with lids. One trash can was allocated for every three residences, replacing residents’ trash cans.

Because the special trash trucks have an automated arm that lifts and empties the barrels, only one worker is needed to operate the vehicle instead of the two workers needed to operate conventional trash trucks. Besides the potential savings in labor costs, Sandoval said the new trash system should reduce work-related injuries because no heavy lifting is required. There is also a savings to residents, who will no longer have to maintain or replace their smaller, 30-gallon trash cans. The larger trash barrels used in the pilot program replaced nearly 3,000 of the smaller cans.

Despite the benefits, Sandoval said some residents have complained about the black color, height and odor of the trash cans and the council wants those issues resolved before giving final approval to citywide implementation of the program. Sandoval said his staff is considering a method of cleaning and disinfecting the bins once a month by attaching a hose to the trucks that would automatically wash the trash barrels after they are emptied.