Birmingham City Council

Cameras, iPads Part of Plan to Improve Garbage Collection

New garbage carts have begun to arrive at Birmingham Public Works. (Source: City of Birmingham)

Birmingham is optimizing its trash pick-up service. The City Council voted Tuesday to approve a three-year contract with Routeware, a software company that will collect and analyze data to determine ways the city’s garbage collection can be more efficient.

“Each day when we have drivers and supervisors leave (work), that’s historic knowledge that walks out the door with them,” Joshua Yates, the city’s director of public works, told the council. “This system will (place) an iPad in the truck, where anybody can sit in that driver’s seat and know exactly the route they’re supposed to be driving … . Consider this the infrastructure backbone for our fleet.”

The software will also include an “accountability” component in the form of video surveillance. “When we go by the house, there’s video basically showing that we did our job, or what was out there that may have hindered us from doing our job,” Yates said. “It’s an accountability tool for everybody, us as well as the citizens we serve.”

The software will also allow for an “opt-in” recycling program designed to streamline pick-up routes. “Basically, when we get our data on recycling and who wants to recycle, we can build routes around that so we can make sure that we’re picking them up in an efficient and effective manner,” Yates said, adding that the city’s current method “is a lot of waste and inefficient, and it leads to a lot of misses. We get a lot of complaints on that, and this is one thing that can reduce the volume of complaints we receive.”

The city will pay Routeware $491,254.60 for the first year of the contract, $303,495 for the second, and $327,894 for the third. The first year will be more expensive because of initial hardware costs, Yates said, while the city will pay Routeware only for software services in the second and third years.

The city has taken other steps to streamline its garbage collection program in recent months. In October, it kicked off distribution of new, streamlined garbage carts that are compatible with the city’s new fleet of mechanized trucks. Distribution of the new carts, which include GPS trackers so that they cannot be removed from their assigned households, will continue into 2023.

District 3 Council Valerie Abbott called the Routeware agreement “a miraculous change” and lauded Yates for “bringing public works out of the dark ages.”