Trash suction could keep the peace in Hunters Point development 

The dream-filled slumber of people living in the redeveloped area of Hunters Point could be protected from the early-morning rattle of trash trucks.

When the former naval base at Hunters Point is redeveloped, a network of underground tubes could be laid, allowing garbage to be sucked from homes and businesses, avoiding trash bins and collections.

Each of the 10,500 homes planned to be built at the shipyard during the coming decades is expected to be connected to three trash chutes — one for recycling, one for compost and one for other garbage — according to Jean Rogers, who is guiding sustainability-related project planning for Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers and consultants.

Each bin inside a chute would contain a sensor that detects when it’s full.

Once a bin fills up, a trap door would open and powerful pneumatic forces would suck its contents through a “Jetsons”-style labyrinth of 20-inch subterranean tubes at speeds of up to 60 mph.

“It’s a very smart system,” Rogers said.

The waste would be delivered through the pipes to a central shipyard trash facility. Several discrete locations are under consideration. Truck drivers would collect waste in bulk from the central facility.

“If there is no trash in the streets, then there are no rats and no vermin,” Rogers said.

Planning for the system is preliminary, but long-term savings on trash-collection costs are expected to outweigh upfront installation expenses.

Colorado-based TransVac Systems, a company that installs similar trash-pipe networks at hospitals and other campus settings, has held talks with Arup and shipyard master developer Lennar Corp.

“We just met with the developers and the design team and made sure that it’s viable,” TransVac Systems President Harry Pliskin said. “I think it’s viable.”

The company recently secured contracts to install similar projects at five residential developments in Hong Kong, according to Pliskin.

“It’s a fairly elegant solution; it’s not rocket science,” Pliskin said. “It’s not really done in the United States. The technology has not been adopted here.”

Maintenance of the system would be largely automated, but painstaking cleaning of gunk in tubes is not normally required.

“It’s moving at 60 mph, so it doesn’t stop and stick very much,” Pliskin said.

Sorting refuse

Three trash chutes for each shipyard home would contain:

  • Compost: Uneaten food scraps, yard waste and greasy paper
  • Recycling: Bottles, cans and paper
  • Trash: Flimsy plastic and Styrofoam

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