By Matt Bush
Garbage in Montgomery County, Maryland may never be clean. But garbage trucks there will.
Garbage and recycling trucks in the county will start to run on compressed natural gas instead of diesel, with a goal of having all such trucks doing so by 2012.
Robin Ennis is the chief of solid waste collection in the county. She says garbage trucks idle more than any other county vehicles on the road, so making them more environmentally sound was crucial.
"These aren't like over-the-road trucks," she says. "These are ones that are actually inside our neighborhoods. So if we can do whatever we can to clean up the air and make the air quality better, then we have an obligation to do that."
For the contractors who operate the trucks, there are benefits too. Compressed natural gas costs 15 percent less than diesel, and they receive tax breaks for buying the trucks. Maintenance is also expected to be less, according to Cordell Proctor of Unity Disposal and Recycling, which operates garbage and recycling trucks for the county.
"The engines burn cleaner, so they last longer," says Proctor. "The oils are cleaner. It runs off a spark plug instead of fuel injection, which clogs things up. It's just the way the engine is made, it's supposed to last longer."
Another benefit residents may or may not notice: natural gas engines are much quieter, meaning the roar of picking up the garbage in the morning won't be so loud.