Portage County shifts gears to eco-friendly waste-hauling fleet

Shamira Fowler

Portage County Solid Waste Management District is taking “going green” to new levels by converting its entire 18-truck fleet to run on biodiesel fuel this year.

The district will use the trucks to collect recyclables at its 800 commercial and 15 drop-off sites.

“We’re hoping that we have a cleaner burning exhaust,” said William Steiner, director of Portage County Solid Waste Management District. “We’d be kind of hypocritical if we’re in waste management, picking up recyclables and didn’t make a change like this.”

Biodiesel fuel, which has lower sulfur levels than traditional fuels, is a lot less harmful to the air. The earth-friendly fuel also lacks the amount of lubrication needed to keep the trucks running smoothly, so fuel additives from Renewable Lubricants, a business that produces environmentally responsible products in Suffield, Ohio, were necessary to reach biodiesel qualifications.

Steiner said converting the trucks to run on biodiesel was less expensive than buying a new fleet of trucks.

“The exhaust (from a converted truck) is not as clean as the newer style trucks,” Steiner explained, “but a newer trucks costs $185,000 a piece, so what we opted to do was to look around for biodiesel options.”

The district also had the opportunity to purchase a new truck, which cost about $200,000, according to Portage County commissioner Maureen Frederick.

The new truck replaced a truck that was purchased in 1999 and had more than 380,000 miles. The purchase was made possible by a $146,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development, Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Program, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The diesel emissions program stresses a strong relationship between clean air, transportation and economic development.

“The premise of the grant is that the truck you’re replacing has to be rendered useless,” Steiner said.

The Solid Waste Management Enterprise fund of the district will provide an additional $39,000 for the truck, which also has a compaction option. If the district decides to turn in the old truck, it will receive $10,000 for the scrap value.

“The sad part about the truck is that it’s more of our reliable trucks,” Steiner said. “It can be 20 below zero, and that truck still runs.”

The Portage County Waste Management District has also been expanding its service area to include new commercial accounts with Portage and Summit counties to increase its revenue.

Contact public affairs reporter Shamira Fowler at [email protected]