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A first in Boulder and the nation: composting in an all-electric way

We’re going to have to start readjusting our mental landscapes. Colorado last fall gained the world’s first (mostly) solar-powered steel mill.

And it will soon have the nation’s first commercial-scale electric powered collection truck for compostable discards.

It is, by the way, a Mack truck. So banish the thought of black clouds of diesel exhaust puffing up from exhaust pipes. It won’t always be that way.

“Eco-Cycle is proud to be pioneering the first commercial-scale electric-powered collection truck for compostables to help lead the transition of commercial-fleet electrification, meeting our mission of zero waste with zero emissions for a more climate-resilient future,” said Suzanne Jones, the executive director of Eco-Cycle.

Transportation has become the single largest sector for greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado. The Regional Air Quality Council has found that each garbage or trash truck displaced by an electric vehicle would roughly reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds by 31 pounds a year, nitrous oxide by 1,895 pounds per year, carbon monoxide by 132 pounds per year.

The truck will travel an estimated 15,000 miles annually.

This fits in with Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Roadmap, and that’s one reason the unveiling of the new truck was attended by Gov. Jared Polis.

Afterward, Electrek summarized the advantages:

  • Waste trucks typically have a defined daily route, so energy use is predictable day-to-day, making range of little concern. Trucks typically return to a depot where they can be charged overnight to be ready for the next day. Eco-Cycle has installed a 75kW charger for this purpose, though the Mack LR is capable of 150kW charging.
  • Routes include a lot of stop-and-go and need lots of low-end torque to get a truck up and running when fully loaded, two situations where electric motors shine.
  • Regenerative braking means less energy loss for a truck that needs to stop several times per block.
  • They’re much quieter and less smelly, which is great for neighborhoods—especially now that so many people are working from home.

The Mack truck was significantly more expensive than standard diesel trucks.Some of the funding for the truck came from Colorado’s VW’s Dieselgate settlement funds. The same fund helped pay for compressed natural gas trucks; this is the first electric.

Eco-Cycle expects lower cost over the long range, as it true of electric vehicles altogether.

Components of the truck are now being manufactured in Pennsylvania and Alabama. When finished, the truck will be delivered to Boulder in July after a cross-country trip on the back of a diesel-powered tractor-trailer. Planners weren’t sure there would be sufficient electric-charging stations in the nation’s interior.

As for the composting, it diverts organic waste that would otherwise go into landfills, breaking the materials into biodegradable materials with oxygen and water, instead of producing methane.

Top: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis delivers remarks on Feb. 10 with a demonstration model of a Mack LR Electric truck that will be arriving in Boulder in July in the background. Photo/Kay Beaton



Allen Best
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