Resource Recycling Magazine Article:
Curbside recycling software:
Can it make your life easier?
A sampling of planning and routing software offers something for everyone.
Continued advances in computer technologies, including the infamous Internet and its web
sites, have provided many new toys and even a few helpful tools. One of the more valuable
tools is the increasing number and variety of software to assist with recycling and waste
collections. Although yesterday's haulers and planners may have gotten by without customer
databases and cost models, many of these tools have now become a critical -- even
indispensable -- means for maintaining productivity and competitiveness.
The variety of software currently available for assisting the recycling and waste industry
is impressive, and includes everything from satellite tracking of containers to projecting
the cost of a solid waste management system for an entire municipality. This variety means
that there is something to fulfill everyone's needs, but it also presents a bewildering
array of choices for the novice user. This review attempts to clear the air by describing
some of the software that is currently available.
For this review, eight software programs were evaluated for their capabilities. These were
chosen in part based on the availability of a demonstration program for reviewing how well
they operate. The eight programs that were reviewed fall into two general groups:
routing and route management software
general planning and recycling cost analysis software
Additional software is listed and briefly described later in this article.
According to one vendor, recycling and solid waste collection companies often start using
software to improve their efficiency in billing, and only later discover that software can
also help with route management and several other functions. Route management capabilities
may become more important as a collector adds customers or adds routes for separate
collection of recyclables and other services.
The following routing software programs were reviewed:
The Refuse Industry Computer Software (RICS), by Norwesco, combines the capabilities of
two programs: the Routing and Billing System and the Waste Accounting System. The review
focuses primarily on the abilities of the first program, which handles routing, billing
and customer service.
RouteSmart, by RouteSmart Technologies, is a computerized map-based route optimization
system and is the only one of the group that is a route design software program.
RouteSmart is available as three different programs with slightly different abilities. All
three employ a Geographic Information System, customer database, and geographic street
database to design, display, print and store route information.
The first of the three programs, RouteSmart Analyst, is a basic program for those with
general needs. The second product is Point-to-Point Routing, which is useful for routing a
series of individual stops. The third product is the Neighborhood Sanitation Module, which
is useful for creating routes over a large area involving stops at almost every location.
RouteSmart also offers a route design service through their Service Bureau. RouteSmart's
demo can be downloaded from its Web site (http://www.routesmart.com/distinct).
Trash Flow, by a company of the same name, provides an integrated package of bookkeeping
and route management. A companion product, Preventive Maintenance Software, addresses
vehicle maintenance schedules, inventories parts, tracks histories, and can also generate
work orders and has other capabilities through optional add-on modules.
WAM, by AOL Technologies, offers a number of advanced features, including compressed data
storage, highly customized reports, support for a wide range of printers, access of the
same customer data by multiple users through a network, word processing abilities (for
form letters, etc.), and has strong security measures. AOL Technologies also offers a
simple. lower cost version of its software -- WAMjr -- for those interested in billing and
routing functions only. More information can be gotten from the company's Web site
(http://www.reuse.com) or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Of these four, three are what might be termed "billing and route management"
software; only RouteSmart actually designs routes. A comparison of these software programs
is shown in Table 1.
Table 1 Comparison of Routing Program Capabilities and Requirements
Price $5,000 + $3,000 + $2,295 + $6,995 +
Minimum CPU 386 486 286 286
Hard disk space 4 MB 50 MB 10 MB < 5 MB
Operating system(s) Windows,
DOS, other Windows
or Unix Windows
or DOS Windows
Toll-free 800 number 331-3553 977-7284 852-5199 282-8229
Hours 7-5 PT 24 hr/7 days 24 hr/7 days 24 hr/7 days
Cost 90 days free 1 year free Free 6 months free
Other support Pending Web site, BBS No Website, e-mail
Ease of use;
Training Yes Yes Via phone Via phone
Online support Yes Yes Soon Yes
support No Yes No Yes
Modular options Yes Yes Yes Yes
Route design No Yes No No
Maps No Yes No Yes
Directions (1) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dispatching Yes Yes Yes Yes
Flexible route lists Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fleet maintenance No No With add-on program Yes
Container tracking Yes No Yes Yes
Profitability analysis Yes No Yes Yes
General Ledger No No Yes No
Billing Yes No Yes Yes
Accounts payable No No Yes No
Payroll reports No No Yes No
Scale interface Companion program Yes No With add-on program
Mailing labels, other word processing Yes No Yes Yes
Integrates with other systems GIS and spreadsheets Billing and database programs
Accounting, spreadsheets, others
Service Bureau can do routing design Material tracking Customizable reports
RICS = Refuse Industry Computer Software.
CPU = Central processing unit. MB = Megabytes. PT = Pacific time zone.
1) Only RouteSmart actually generates directions; the other three store and display
and instructions that have been manually entered.
Source: Green Solutions, 1996.
This group of software includes several programs that will primarily interest planners and
consultants. Because of differing designs and capabilities, this group was further
those performing general solid waste management planning (WastePlan and SWPlan).
those focusing on recycling results and costs (RecycleWare and EPIC's cost model).
Four planning software programs were reviewed:
SWPlan, by Recycling Insights, is a Windows program that allows the user to examine
various options for handling the flow of waste from a large area or a single company. This
program uses standard Windows design and icons, providing an easy interface for users
familiar with Microsoft Windows. Recycling Insights also offers a second software program,
RecycleTrak, for tracking and reporting recycling tonnages. For further information, check
out Recycling Insight's Web site (http://www.isd.net/cpm).
WastePlan, by Tellus Institute, provides a tool for analyzing and forecasting costs and
capacity requirements for solid waste management, including waste generation, collection
systems, and processing and disposal systems. This program allows two different modes of
operation with different levels of complexity and slightly different capabilities. The
data shown in Table 2 are for the "advanced" mode.
Municipal Recycling Collection Cost Model, produced by the Environment and Plastics
Institute of Canada, is a well-designed spreadsheet based in Microsoft Excel software.
This spreadsheet walks one through a cost analysis for recycling programs for single
family homes and apartment buildings. EPIC's cost model can be run from a disk, but the
user will need to have Excel installed on his or her computer to operate it. Default
values and results are reported in metric measurements.
RecycleWare, by RecycleWorlds Consulting, allows a detailed cost analysis of five
recycling options (six if you count the no recycling option), including drop-off
containers alone, curbside bins with a compartmentalized truck for recycling collection,
curbside bins with separate commingled collections for recyclables, curbside collection
using one truck (divided or with a trailer) for waste and recyclables, and post-collection
separation of recyclables. RecycleWare allows tighter control of collection cost factors
than the two general planning software programs. A Windows version of this software is
expected to be released soon.
A comparison of these software programs is shown in Table 2.
Table 2 Comparison of Planning
Program Capabilities and Requirements
General Planning Software Recycling
|Hard disk space
|| 2 MB
|| 3 MB
|Toll-free 800 number
|| 9-11 CT
||8 hours free
||1 year free
|Ease of use:
|Clarity of manual
||Yes (from list of 19 commodities)
EPIC = Environment and Plastics Institute of Canada.
CPU = Central processing unit. MB = Megabytes. CT = Central time zone. ET = Eastern time
(1) Accomplished through separate runs of the program, although software design allows
windows from each run of the program to be open simultaneously for easy side-by-side
Source: Green Solutions, 1996.
Other software programs
A sampling of other routing and other software programs that are currently available
WasteWORKS, by Carolina Software, tracks transactions at recycling and waste management
facilities. It handles both the financial aspects (ticketing, monthly statements, account
status, etc.) and management aspects (numerous reports including amounts and types of
waste, average times to unload, numbers of customers, etc.). It can handle multiple sites
with data transfer to a central office.
ScrapWare (previously called ScrapMaster), by Consolidated Resources, Inc. recently added
satellite tracking of collection and shipment containers to an already-extensive list of
capabilities. It's other capabilities include handling purchasing and sales, contracts,
quotes, truck fleet management and other logistics.
This software doesn't attempt to include a financial program but instead is designed to
integrate easily with a variety ledger software programs. This software is now available
for Mac or IBM-compatible systems. CRI also offers ScrapWare RF, which transmits data
through a wireless network to handheld computers used by staff working throughout a
facility, enabling them to report or access data easily.
The Billing Clerk, by Dilloware, Inc., is a DOS-based software program designed to help
haulers and others with billing functions. This software manages the billing process to
create invoices and related statements, track outstanding bills, and handle the customer
list. It provides flexibility in printing to a variety of forms, and even postcards, and
in tracking specific information about individual customers.
Material Recovery Facility Processing Cost Model, by EPIC, is similar in design and
operation to EPIC's Recycling Cost Model (see above). The MRF Cost Model provides a cost
accounting method for processing costs, examines annual capital and operating costs for
MRFs, reports cost per tonne for processed materials, projects the number of sorters
required, addresses processing rates and storage requirements, and addresses other
The CRV Manager, by Executech, is a "point-of-purchase" software originally
designed to assist California businesses with tracking beverage containers and other
materials. This software has recently been modified and re-released under the name
"The Scrap Manager", with additional capabilities to track customer histories
and contracts, and to produce reports by city or hauler. Additional capabilities are also
offered through other products, such as the ability to track collection and storage
containers using "The Service Tracker".
CompTroller, by Green Mountain Technologies, is a software program that controls the
composting process and monitors for compliance with 503c standards. This software was
originally developed as part of a package for Green Mountain Technologies' containerized
composting system, and has been recently adapted to monitor and control all types of
aerated composting processes. Green Mountain Technologies configures the software
according to the requirements of each facility.
Your Waste Prevention Computer Tool Kit, by the League of Women Voters, is a valuable
resource for designing and implementing waste prevention programs. The tool kit contains
worksheets, templates for letters and other documents, clip art, curricula, tips and
strategies for specific businesses and departments, evaluation forms, and much more.
CompuWeigh, by Paradigm Software, Inc., is an automated weighing, invoicing and account
tracking system that is based in Windows and is designed to allow flexibility and
customization by the user. It has been optimized for use in Windows 95. As with some of
the other software programs, it does not attempt to include a financial program, but is
designed to interface with Accounting Vision and other ledger programs.
WasteSort, by RecycleWorlds Consulting, is a software program specifically designed to
assist with waste composition data collection and analysis. For additional information,
see the review of this software in the December 1995 issue of Resource Recycling.
flexABILITY, by ScanSys Corporation, is an integrated package of applications designed to
work within the Microsoft Office environment. This software promises customizable reports
output from a variety of software programs (Excel, Word, Works, etc.). The capabilities of
flexABILITY are numerous, including such things as accounting, payroll, container
tracking, and scheduling for solid waste, medical waste, and recyclables. It can be used
for a single site or multiple locations, and on IBM-compatible systems from stand-alone
PCs to multi-user networks.
Computer Ease, by Shared Logic, provides a system whose strengths are tracking inventory
(including collection and storage containers) and financial data (including sales, payroll
and quotes). This program is currently in use by about 250 companies nationwide. Its
modular approach manages transactions, tracks containers, handles dispatching, records
scale weights, and provides maintenance schedules and cost projections. It can be used on
IBM-compatible systems from stand-alone PC's to multi-user networks.
Soft-Pak, by a company of the same name, provides a system that manages customer data,
billing, and account status for solid and hazardous waste haulers and recyclers. Soft-Pak
can be customized to a particular application and, through optional modules, can also
assist with vehicle and materials management, scale interface, and accounting.
Structural Instrumentation provides two software products (Route Authority and Route
Reporter) and a variety of scales (Route Man, Smart Pin, Lodec and Brutus). These
components can be used alone or in other configurations, and their software is compatible
with other on-board weighing systems and computers. Using an on-board weighing system
(Route Man) the data transfer system (Route Authority) and their software (Route
Reporter), a computerized tracking system called Route Management System can be created.
Systems Alternatives, Inc. provides a handful of products that monitor scale weights and
financial data for a variety of facilities. They have a modular approach, with optional
sub-systems for financial, inventory, production, contracts, brokerage, maintenance costs,
and freight management. SAI's products are currently in use at over 200 locations.
RecycleTrax, by Wixel, handles some aspects of routing (such as automating pick-up slips,
route sheets and invoices), but its real strength is in tracking materials. The
RecycleTrax system tracks materials from the point of collection to the point of being
shipped out of a facility as a finished product, processed material or waste. Additional
capabilities include scheduling loads, manifesting, tracking inventory and related
aspects. This software can also be used to track materials between facilities, which is
accomplished through the ability for data transfers between commercial and industrial
waste generators, their haulers, MRF's and disposal facilities.
Conclusions and Recommendations
It may be stating the obvious, but the best choice of software for a particular company
will depend on a company's precise needs.
If a company or municipality is interested in improving their billing and route management
abilities, then there are many good programs on the market. The best choice hinges on
factors such as a program's ability to use existing customer data and hardware systems,
the ability to use standard billing forms, and the potential advantages offered by
additional or optional functions, such as fleet maintenance.
If, however, a company or municipality is seriously interested in redesigning their
routing system, then RouteSmart is the only one of the four routing programs reviewed that
offers this capability. Because RouteSmart software is compatible with most of the other
route management programs, they could be used together to provide a full range of routing
design and management capabilities.
For the planning software, either EPIC's collection cost model or RecycleWare would be a
good choice for those who are examining the cost of recycling programs in great detail.
For more general planning and system analysis efforts, SWPlan is highly recommended for
its Windows format and subsequent ease of use for most users. WastePlan offers a few
advantages, however, that some users may consider to be valuable enough to warrant the
greater investment in time to learn this program.
What none of these four planning software programs can do is completely replace the
careful consideration of policies and community needs that is the special province of the
public policy sector, but all of the four programs reviewed are useful for addressing
"what if" scenarios and providing ballpark cost estimates.
By no means does this list of programs include all of the additional software programs
that are available. Moreover, new software packages and capabilities are continually being
developed or added to existing programs. Smart computer user will keep an eye on these
developments to determine how the new programs might serve their needs.
About the Author
Rick Hlavka is the owner of the Seattle-based consulting firm, Green Solutions, which
specializes in recycling program evaluation, waste composition studies, solid waste
management plans, and cost analysis. He can be reached at by e-mail at email@example.com