New York City – Town of Smithtown NY Chooses CNG to Cut Refuse Collection Costs

Faced with rising refuse collection costs, the Town of Smithtown, New York, decided to require its refuse collection contractors to use compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks. It was the first New York municipality to institute such a requirement. On January 1, 2007, the 30 contractor-owned diesel refuse trucks collecting solid waste and recyclables from the town’s 116,000 residents were replaced by 22 CNG models.

Smithtown selected four bidders for seven-year contracts: Brothers Carting, Dejana Industries, Jody Industries, and V. Garafalo Carting. The companies were responsible for buying the new CNG trucks. To offset the higher cost for these trucks versus diesel trucks, the companies had the option of claiming the Federal Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit for up to 80% of the incremental cost. An alliance of local organizations helped the contractors find financing options.

To establish CNG fueling infrastructure, Smithtown partnered with natural gas supplier Clean Energy. With no leasing agreements, access fees, or capital outlay for Smithtown, the contract required Clean Energy to provide the fueling infrastructure and commission local service providers. Because of Smithtown’s new contract with the refuse collectors, Clean Energy had to complete the fueling station in six months–two to four months faster than it usually takes to locate a station, obtain permits, and secure a compressor.

To accomplish this, Clean Energy received permission from the New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT) and Office of General Services to allow expansion of a station in nearby Hauppauge, which Clean Energy already operated for New York State. The Hauppauge expansion supported NYDOT’s goal to increase natural gas use as a vehicle fuel and brought additional revenue to the state of $0.05 per gasoline gallon equivalent. Clean Energy expanded the Hauppauge volumetric gas flow rate from 15 to 2,000 scfm and opened the station within four months.Smithtown entered into an agreement on fuel pricing with Clean Energy through 2013. CNG costs for the refuse trucks started at $2.33 per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) through 2008 and increase each year to conclude at $2.94 per DGE in 2013. The contracted CNG price could decrease if the price differential between diesel and CNG goes above a set threshold.

“Controlling refuse collection costs for town residents was the primary reason Smithtown chose CNG,” explained the coordinator of the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition. “The commitment from Clean Energy to set a stable fuel price was very important.” Switching to CNG provides environmental and energy-security benefits for Smithtown.

The CNG refuse trucks are projected over the life of the contract to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 265 tons and particulate matter by 15 tons. Smithtown also expects to displace more than 1.5 million DGE of petroleum-based fuel.The benefits are amplified when other towns adopt a similar strategy. Smithtown’s success inspired nearby Brookhaven to plan the deployment of 67 CNG trucks in 2009 in a similar effort.

Clean Cities inspired Smithtown’s move to CNG. In May 2006, Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s Environmental Protection Director, saw a Clean Cities alternative fuel presentation at the Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations Solid Waste/Recycling Conference & Trade Show in Bolton Landing, New York. The presentation persuaded him that CNG was the best choice for Smithtown’s refuse fleet. For more information, contact Russell Barnett.

Source: United States Department of Energy (DOE)

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What is Solid Waste?

Solid waste is any solid or semisolid garbage, refuse, or rubbish, sludge (from any facility involved in the treatment of air, wastewater, or water supply), and other discarded material, including any contained liquid or gaseous material, remaining from industrial, commercial, institutional activities and residential or community activities.

Note: This includes medical waste but not sewage or septic liquid discharge.

Waste or Resource

Solid waste often contains recoverable resources which can be used in re-manufacturing. What some would see as a waste, may be a resource to others. Capturing these resources can reduce the depletion of non-renewables and impacts such as carbon-induced climate change.

While this recycling of resources is rarely financially viable without some assistance, the consequential social and environmental costs of not recovering those materials are substantial.

Advance recycling charges and deposit refund schemes (where the cost of recovery is built into the purchase of the original product), user pays systems such as collection charges or even hypothecated funding from related areas such as Airport departure taxes, have all been used successfully to get resource recovery functioning and keeping the waste system financially sustainable.

Solid waste often has an impact beyond its immediate environmental consequence. It impacts on people’s quality of life and their motivation to assist with environmental management.

It is difficult to get communities to change behavior to improve their future if their present is blighted by poor waste management. The costs of good solid waste management can be significant and the challenge is to make that expenditure are cost-effective as possible. That will ensure the impacts on the national budgets is minimised while also reducing the costs to public health, the tourism industry or the natural environment.

The Opportunity

Waste is visible and real to the community. Unlike important issues such as bio-diversity, or climate change, changes in waste management are quickly apparent. This means that waste management is an ideal avenue to engage the community on sustainable living. Studies show that those who manage their wastes are more likely to reduce energy or water consumption.

Just as importantly, the community can reduce the costs of waste management through their actions. Not only is community involvement sensible from an environmental perspective – it can save money.

Source: SPREP

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