Public Works: Sucking Garbage

Source: Peter Goffin, Torontoist, Public Works, March 25, 2014

A vacuum-powered waste management system would cut costs and be good for the environment. Is it right for Toronto?

The year 2014 is shaping up to be the year Toronto talks garbage. Mayor Rob Ford and Coucillor (and Public Works and Infrastructure Committee Chairman) Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) have each called for reports on fully privatizing Toronto waste collection, which Ford has already pegged as an election issue. The City’s waste management budget for this year is nearly $350 million, which is roughly the same as in 2013, and slightly more than in 2012, but carries with it a three-per-cent hike in residential garbage collection fees. Before we get too down on Toronto, though, remember that garbage is a problem for many big cities. In fact, more and more of those cities are looking at new means of collecting and transporting waste. Sanitation experts in New York City, for instance, are taking a good long look at Envac, a Swedish company that installs and operates vacuum-powered waste collection and management systems.

Anything to do with suction tube travel sounds distinctly futuristic, but Envac has been doing its vacuum waste collection thing since the 1960s, when pneumatic tubes were an exciting and beloved means of transporting inanimate objects (or so we’ve been led to understand). Today, Envac has its vacuum systems installed in a residential development on Roosevelt Island, New York; a catering company at Pearson Airport; Montreal’s “Quartier Des Spectacles”; Disney World; and dozens more public, commercial, and residential areas around the world…..