If you've seen the street sweeper come down your street on a monthly or weekly rotation, you might wonder if they have any impact at all to the health of your city and your planet. You might be surprised to learn that street sweeping is a service you can stand behind as being earth-friendly. Contrary to what you might think, there is more to sweeping than just keeping streets looking tidy. Street sweeping has become more environmentally essential for all urban settings as the world moves in a greener direction.
Street debris can be used for energy and landfills.
Street sweepers collect debris that can be reused to help provide energy for other projects. For example, in Tampa, the debris that comes from street sweeping is used to help produce electricity for local homes. Though the waste is still burned to make power, it replaces the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels and prevents street waste from making it to the landfill.
Even the dirt, which does get sent to a landfill, helps in a way. Instead of harvesting topsoil to cover dump sites, dirt from the street can be used instead. This helps to preserve farmlands and reduces the amount of environmental disturbance to support landfill development.
Water sources can be protected.
Street sweeping helps to keep toxic waste, chemicals, rocks, and dirt out of storm drains. Some water is cleaned and reused in the city, but gutter water from rain and runoff often does not get cleaned and reused. It is simply funneled back to streams, lakes and rivers. If streets are not cleaned, it increases sediment levels in natural water sources, and chemicals from cars and plastics from trash can end up harming the habitats and health of marine-dwelling animals. Cigarette butts, wrappers, and gum directly impact animals who might eat them. Heavy metals from street debris create acidic freshwater environments, leading to premature death of animals and plants.
Road waste can be recycled.
Even though the grey silt that is harvested from the road may look like dirt, it actually contains a lot of organic and inorganic materials that can be used for other purposes. For example, vegetation, like leaves and twigs, can be turned into mulch for city flowerbeds, and rocks can become part of concrete or other aggregate materials. Using waste from the roads means that these materials are not going to be harvested from the ground, reducing overall environmental impact.
Air quality can be improved.
Imagine if the streets were full of salt and residual oils, as well as dirt and leaves, that were never removed. If there is a wind storm or fast traffic, these would be continually thrown into the air, significantly increasing air pollution in urban settings. If you're worried about the fuel that these trucks burn, therefore adding exhaust to the air, you should also know that sweepers have been designed to use less fuel and make less noise.
Also, if you're worried about the efficiency of street sweepers in collecting particulates without kicking up a lot of dust, you should know that modern sweepers can pick up pollutants as small as 10 microns. They also use water and vacuums to help prevent dust clouds during cleaning.
Flood risk goes down.
Storm drains are an essential part of city infrastructure that helps to direct heavy water flow in the event of a water main burst or a flash flood during a storm. Sweeping protects the city from the devastating and toxic effects of flooding by keeping storm drains free of clogging trash and street waste. When cities flood, sewage and trash mingle with water, allowing these pollutants to leech into the soil and into local water sources. Just keeping gutters and storm drains clear reduces this risk.
For more information on the street sweepers, check out companies like USA Services of Florida.
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