When urban civilizations were first evolving, street cleaning was done manually with the help of conventional brooms, shovels, and washcloths. Gradually, the industrial revolution sank in and technology started to replace manual labor (and horses and buggies) in the streets. Vacuum cleaners for drain cleaning, automatic sweeping machines to keep the roads in order, and snow movers were invented and brought into the general use.
Street sweeping machines are employed by the government for this job, and certain guidelines have been put into place. States and municipalities have procured commercial street sweeping vehicles through third parties. Different regions in the US have their own street sweeping standards and guidelines based on population density, vehicle density, and the demographics of the region. However, all of them have many similar guidelines and rules to be followed for street sweepers.
Objectives of Street Cleaning
- Formulating a street cleaning schedule is the first and most important part of defining street cleaning practices. Preparing a schedule is directly related to efficiency of the program, but also important are sticking to the schedule and implementing it thoroughly to make the streets look better and cleaner on a long term basis.
- Constructing dumping sites is the second step, the dumping sites must be accessible from all the streets yet they should be far away from the residential areas so that no bacterial or viral disease threatens public health. Disposal systems should be modern and availed of advanced technology (because conventional methods always invite trouble). Hazardous material must be tested before dumping to avoid any public health issues or possible contamination.
- Parking and traffic rules must be defined and publicized on cleaning day, to avoid trouble and inconvenience for both the public and the sweepers.
General Street Cleaning Guidelines
Federal and State Air Quality norms are followed by the states to clean their streets and provide a healthy living and working atmosphere for the masses. Following is a list mentioning general street cleaning guidelines and standards adopted across all the American States and territories.
- Every street is cleaned on a particular day, and the municipal authorities chalk out the cleaning schedule in the beginning of the year. At the entrance of all streets and neighborhoods, street cleaning day notices are posted and a few hours window is given for those who rely on street parking. During this time, the residents are supposed to take their vehicles out of the streets, for say two or three hours depending upon the street and neighborhood, so that cleaning operations can be performed.
- Mechanical brooms and vacuum cleaning devices must be used simultaneously so that street sweeping does not cause formation of dust clouds.
- All the street sweepers must be certified PM10 street sweepers, complying with the Rule 1186 of SCAQMD. The term PM10 refers to the particles of diameter less than 10 micrometers up to 2 micrometers.
- Contracted or hired sweeping companies must comply to the standards and mandates set by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
- Regenerative air clean systems are recommended, as they are fast and can clean minute dust particles from roads and drains. This system relies on a high velocity controlled jet of air created by the powerful blower wheel which picks up dirt and debris from the road and dumps it in an attached hopper.
- It is mandatory to use disinfectants in the rainy season (and it's a best practice in other seasons, too) so that the streets stay free from any possibility of fungal, viral, or bacterial attack.
Role of the Public
Street cleaning guidelines do not mean setting rules for the sweepers and authorities only. It also includes educating the masses about the need of keeping their neighborhood clean, including:
- Pruning shrubs and trees so that they do not block equipment from cleaning the streets. Never place your garbage containers or recycling containers near the fire hydrants.
- Educating the public about recyclable waste products and how to put them to good use.
- Minimizing the use of plastic bottles and polythene bags (because they can harm our environment beyond our imagination).
- Cooperating with the sweepers and cleaners.
Of late, street sweeping and cleaning technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Vacuum cleaning, regenerative air cleaning, and the 21st Century invention, Captive Hydrology, has made street sweeping an easy task. These are mainly used to clean the street or pavement surface in wet conditions. This technology was first used in the Great Britain, and in America the city of Olympia, Washington was the first to use Captive Hydrology technique to clean its pavements and streets.
- City of Olympia, Washington – Analysis of Captive Hydrology Machine (July 2002) (PDF)
- Street Sweeping – Report No. 1, State of the Practice, Ist.Psu.Edu
- SOPs for Street Sweeping, Sweeper Cleaning and Waste Disposal, http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/www/pace/government/documents/StreetSweepingCleaningandWasteDisposalSOP.pdf
- Image: Sweeping Truck, http://www.louisvilleky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/F1060922-C7A1-4D47-8B41-A61D052EEBE8/0/StreetSweeper200.JPG
- Guideline for Municipal Management Practices for Street Sweepings and Catch Basin Cleanings, http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/waste_management_and_disposal/solid_waste/street_sweepings.pdf