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Why efficient waste management matters: Lessons from Memphis, Tennessee

By Rubicon

Picking up trash at more than 170,000 locations in the City of Memphis, Tennessee every single week is no small feat.

Memphis solid waste collection crews once used printed route sheets to collect residents’ trash, recycling, and yard waste. New drivers struggled to learn their routes as they shuffled through paper maps and lists of customers that required special collection. Drivers would often miss stops, making service requests high and customer satisfaction low.

In 2018, Memphis deployed Rubicon’s technology in its fleet of more than 400 vehicles. Fast forward to 2023, Rubicon is an integral part of the Solid Waste Division’s daily process. New drivers are trained on the technology within the first few days on the job. Drivers appreciate that Rubicon helps them run their routes more effectively. As one driver notes, “It allows us to know where we left off—and where we need to go next.”

Improved customer service

Using Rubicon’s in-cab technology, drivers consistently log over 1,000 issues monthly to identify contaminated or damaged bins, as well as bins that are not placed out at the curb. Drivers also receive notifications about special collections, such as those for disabled residents, as they approach the relevant address.

In City zones that have the highest driver engagement, service requests in 2022 decreased 14% compared to 2021. Additionally, the City’s zones with the highest driver engagement were able to close out service requests in less than a day in 2021 and 2022. The decrease in missed pickup requests in these zones have also led to a reduction in return trips (go-backs). Rubicon projects that the City made roughly 2,500 fewer go-backs in 2022. This translates to approximately 34,500 fewer miles, $297,000 in fuel and operating cost savings, and 122 tons of CO2e avoided—the equivalent of 27 passenger vehicles off the road annually.

The City of Memphis attributes these trends to Rubicon’s technology. According to Solid Waste Director Philip Davis, “RUBICONSmartCity technology has helped transition our division to the digital age. Drivers can identify issues and relay them to their supervisor or supporting service center. Supervisors have gained a comprehensive view of what’s going on in their routes. Management has developed insights on collection activities and trends in service. Customers can see the difference in their service quality.”

Saved time and money

The City of Memphis also picks up bulky items at residents’ homes. Prior to Rubicon, bulky collection was a cumbersome process for supervisors. Supervisors would spend at least 30 minutes each day creating and manually uploading jobs into their Oracle work order system then printing out jobs on paper for drivers. This translated to two and a half hours of combined weekly work per zone.

In 2022, Rubicon integrated with Oracle to seamlessly feed work orders to the Rubicon portal. In the portal, dispatchers can assign jobs to routes. When drivers log into the app, they can see their scheduled jobs and new jobs added while on their route.

In the region in which the City implemented this streamlined process, they have reduced delays in service and accelerated the completion of service requests. Additionally, the process has freed up precious time for supervisors. Once implemented citywide, the City will save an estimated 520 hours of supervisor time and $52,000 in improved efficiencies annually.

Improved resource management

In 2022, the City of Memphis turned to Rubicon to implement a citywide fleet optimization for their garbage routes. Rubicon identified the City had shorter routes compared to industry standards, and routes included vacant homes, leading to route inefficiencies and imbalances.

Through the optimization project, Rubicon consolidated routes and reduced their number of daily routes by 8-10 by removing vacant homes from routes and increasing route sizes closer to industry standards. With the optimized routes in place, pickups per hour increased and disposal tonnage jumped from 7-8 to 9-10 tons, making disposal trips more efficient. The City has delivered consistent service without overextending available drivers or reducing driver staffing. Additionally, by decreasing the number of daily routes, Memphis reduced the number of vehicles on the road, decreasing tailpipe emissions, increasing vehicle lifetimes, and increasing the number of trucks on reserve.

“Finding these resources has helped cover routes and added capacity for hand pile collection in trash heavy routes,” said Darius Jones, Deputy Director of Solid Waste. “This combats overall blight in the City.”

Rubicon created a documentary featuring the success story of Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Glendale, Arizona. Watch the full documentary on YouTube.

To learn more about how Rubicon can help your city maximize resources, optimize routes, and become more proactive, visit rubicon.com/governments.



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