Pay-Per-Pound Trash Pickup System Tested

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With garbage truck No. 210 rumbling in the background, Jim Harrison, vice president of the Harrison Industries refuse collection service, talked trash Tuesday under appropriately mucky, gray skies at Ventura’s Huntsinger Park.

In front of a doughnut-nibbling audience that included Ventura Mayor Greg Carson and two inspectors from the Ventura County Office of Weights and Measures, Harrison unveiled a different--albeit far off--way to charge customers for garbage collection: by weight instead of volume.

Harrison Industries serves Ventura, Ojai, Camarillo, Fillmore, Santa Paula, parts of Thousand Oaks and unincorporated areas of the county.


The company has been experimenting with the per-pound format in Montalvo for more than a month, but Harrison said it is several years from being instituted. The system is the brainchild of Toter Inc., a North Carolina-based manufacturer of trash cans.

Harrison said the system rewards customers who recycle, thus decreasing their trash weight. He said the measuring system would help the county comply with a state law that requires cities and counties to cut landfill use by 25% by 1995.

“If you put out five pounds of trash, you pay for five pounds. If you put out 10 pounds, you pay for that,” said Skip Lynn, Toter’s western vice president of sales. “It’s high-tech garbage.”

Indeed, the trash is weighed by a microchip-equipped device attached to each garbage can.

As an arm on the truck lifts the garbage-laden can, a computer in the truck’s cab registers the weight. After the trash is dumped, the weight of the empty can is recorded. The difference equals the amount of garbage collected.

A customer’s address is automatically recorded along with the weight of the garbage. At the end of each day’s run, the statistics are retrieved from the computer and recorded for billing purposes. Before the weighing system can be used, it would have to meet weights and measures accuracy requirements.

“The only thing that really worries me is that it would have to be very heavy-duty,” said Bob Berumen, Ventura County’s senior Weights and Measures inspector. “It really has to be a durable piece of equipment.”


Berumen said he might also worry about the honesty of his neighbors, should a pay-by-the-pound method be instituted.

“They could throw their trash in your bin,” he said. “You have too many bricks? Throw one over there.”

To demonstrate the machine’s accuracy, Mayor Carson and others loaded four previously weighed sacks of rice hulls into a garbage can. After the computer recorded the weights of the sacks, a computer tape was taken to the nearby Harrison facility where the information could be retrieved.

A printout was ready in about 10 minutes. Tension mounted as all in attendance gathered to see how closely the computer-tabulated weights matched the weights on the bags of rice.

Somehow the computer hadn’t registered a weight for bag No. 1. The figures for the other three bags were off by three to six pounds each.

“It’s going to take a while to get the bugs out,” Harrison spokeswoman Nan Drake said. “We were just happy the arm lifted and everything went in.”