Trash and recycling collection in Newton is now 100 percent automated — meaning the city has completed the replacement of trucks which at one time needed a driver and two employees to empty refuse containers into the trucks.

"There were up front costs to this replacement," said Erin McDaniel, public information officer for the city of Newton. "We replaced old trucks with new ones. We replaced them on the normal replacement schedule."

The city has been gradually moving toward automated service since 2008, replacing old rear-loading trucks on their planned replacement schedule with new trucks that feature a mechanical/robotic arm that lifts and empties trash and recycle containers without the driver ever leaving the cab of the truck.

"This system is much more efficient and safer for our employees," said Randy Jackson, street/sanitation superintendent. "The old style of manual collection required teams of three workers to tip containers into a rear-load compactor on the trucks. ... This physically demanding, repetitive work was slower, had greater potential for injuries, and resulted in a much higher spillage rate. We are excited about making the whole system better."

There are now fewer employees in the sanitation division — throughout the automation of refuse collection the city has attempted to move workers to other positions as they came open. Some employees were not replaced when they left or retired.

Throughout the switchover two employees were laid off.

"We tried to find people positions in other departments when it was appropriate," McDaniel said.