Plastic bags often fly out of Raleigh trash trucks

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Americans use billions of plastic bags each year. And if you’ve driven around I-440, you’ve probably seen a number of old bags along the side of the road or flapping in the trees.

Many of the bags are coming from trash trucks themselves.

With cameras rolling, CBS North Carolina followed the transfer trucks that haul the city of Raleigh’s trash from a transfer station off of New Bern Avenue to the South Wake landfill.

Bag flies out in Raleigh (CBS North Carolina)
PHOTOS: Trash flies out of Raleigh trash trucks

On average, about 15 bags and other pieces of debris escaped each truck. One truck lost 23 bags and other pieces of plastic on its trip.

CBS North Carolina showed the video to Wake County Solid Waste Director John Roberson, who said he is concerned.

“It’s something we’ve been aware of probably 6 months to a year,” Roberson said.

The number of bags slipping from the trucks adds up over time.

The company usually runs 10 trucks that make at least three trips each day, six days a week. The trucks CBS North Carolina followed dropped an average of 15 bags each trip. That would mean at least 2,500 bags a week and 135,000 in a year would have escaped.

“We contract with a company called Stafford Transport of NC; they are owned by a parent company called CEI,” Roberson said.

General Manager Tommy Smith with CEI Custom Ecology Inc., said the problem started when they switched to automated tarps.

“It’s been a real problem,” he said. “It’s been a concern since we put them on,” Smith said.

He said that when the wind hits the trailer and creates a vortex. The tarp flaps and literally sucks any light paper or plastic out.

“That’s something we’re going to press them all to have resolved in the next couple of months,” Roberson said.

Smith said the company has been trying different ways to keep the tarps down for months. They’ve adjusted the tarps and even tried to engineer a fix that would help hold the front and back edge down. It helped, but didn’t solve the problem.

He said they’re in the business of hauling trash, not spreading it.

“What I’m doing is switching back to a manual roll tarp,” Smith said. “This style tarp has five straps attached to the truck. It also has a flap on the front and a flap on the back that goes over both sides. And they’re also strapped so no air gets under it doesn’t flap, it’s tight.”

So far they have converted eight trailers back to manual tarps and plan to have the rest converted within the next 30 days.

It’s a fix Smith said should finally bag the problem.

“It’s a costly venture but is best for the company, the county, and the citizens of the county,” Smith said.

Got a tip? Email Jonathan Rodriguez at CBS North Carolina.

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