Technicians, residents work out kinks during start of automated - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Technicians, residents work out kinks during start of automated trash collection

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Depending on where you live in La Crosse, Monday was trash day.

It's also the first day the city completely switched over to the new automated system.

The pull of a joy stick, a clamp, the lift and release. Those are steps to operating the new automated garbage trucks.

"Grand Theft Garbage," Sanitation Technician Andrew Prew said mockingly of the truck's mechanical arms.

He's not a fan of video games.

"No I hate them," he laughed. "I never played them."

But that's how this sanitation technician describes his new automated truck.

"It's the same concept and everything. Same controls—something you'd buy at Best Buy and play on your computer," Prew said.

He's making a clean sweep of La Crosse's north side the first day the automated system is fully implemented.

"The whole joy stick, and the buttons, and the cameras, and the arms on both sides, and it took quite a while to get used to it," Prew said.

Prew has been practicing for three weeks, ever since residents got their new bins.

He's not flawless, yet.

"Did you get me screwing up," Prew asked, getting out of the truck to pick up a bin he knocked over.

Residents are also making a few mistakes.

"Can placements. That's probably one of the biggest ones," said Gary Harter, president of Harter's Quick Clean Up.

Cans are supposed to be at least three feet from one another and from fixed objects.

"We have a crew that goes out and places them where they're supposed to be," Harter said. "And then we just leave a tag on them saying this is where we prefer them to be."

Harter's staff will distribute yellow tags for the first two weeks of the new system.

After that, if the bin is still in the wrong place, they won't collect the trash.

Prew said the new trucks cut his route by about two hours. And he appreciates not lifting garbage bins anymore.

"I've woken up the next morning to come to work and have not been able to tie my shoes. It hurt just to bend over," he said.

For a little extra safety, Prew will operate a truck like a video game. Just don't expect him to play one at home.

"No," Prew said. "This is kind of one those things when you do it all day at work, you don't want to go home and do it again."

Harter's implemented the automated system in Onalaska Jan. 1 and after a few early obstacles, staff said it's running smoothly.

There are a few extra challenges that come with La Crosse pick-up, according to Harter.

Mainly, there are a lot of alleys and the trucks need three feet of space between cans a

and objects.

Harter said it's not easy for some residents to make that happen.

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