Most of the trucks used in recycling are diesel powered. Diesel engines are rugged and last a long time in heavy duty use. But diesel trucks cost more to buy than their gas powered cousins, and diesel fuel is more expensive than gas, too. Those extra costs make it harder for recyclers to make a profit.
That’s why Progressive Waste Solutions has added 300 CNG (compressed natural gas) powered trucks to its fleet. CNG trucks are less expensive to buy and CNG costs up to 50% less than diesel fuel. Compressed natural gas is clean burning, which means it doesn’t spew particulates into the air like diesel does. It also means there are no harmful combustion by-products to gum up critical internal engine parts or contaminate lubricating oils so the engines have fewer breakdowns and need less downtime for maintenance.
TerraCycle, located in Trenton, NJ, is one of the leaders in the US recycling industry. It began in 2001 with a vermicomposting program to recycle the food waste generated by Princeton University. Since then, it has gone on to be a leader in finding new uses for surplus or discarded containers and has worked closely with Kraft Foods, Target, Honest Tea and Stonyfield Farm. Recently, TerraCycle asked Progressive Waste to be its primary waste hauler because of its commitment to environmentally friendly business policies.
Tom Szaky, co-founder of TerraCycle, knows that compressed natural gas is not the perfect fuel. While it allows the US to avoid depending on foreign energy suppliers, its low cost can mostly be attributed to large-scale fracking operations which have their own environmental concerns. Ideally, he would like to see battery operated trucks replace all those that currently burn fossil fuels. But in the meantime, CNG is a useful alternative to gasoline and diesel, one that lowers costs and reduces carbon emissions while we wait for better solutions to become available.
Image credit: Screen capture from “Progressive Waste Solutions Revs Up Conversion of CNG Fleet” video