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Cambria County uses palmtop PCs to improve its recycling program

Cleaning up. Pennsylvania's Cambria County is using palmtop computers to direct its waste management workers and to track recycling operations in the field. County officials estimate that they have saved thousands of dollars and at least 12 hours of employee time weekly.

The county has teamed up with Penn State's Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program to develop the system, which uses Cassiopeia E-100 palmtop computers from Casio Inc. of Dover, N.J., and obBASE database software from Obsolution.com Inc. of Walzenhausen, Switzerland, running under Microsoft Windows CE.

The Cassiopeia E-100 has a 131-MHz processor, 16M of RAM, 16M of flash ROM and an LCD. The unit sports a lithium-ion battery that provides six hours of power.

On the road again. Cambria County has 10 recycling collection sites for newspapers, clear glass and metal. Recycling truck drivers make pickups once a week.

Michael Lieb, the county's waste management collections supervisor, said that before the county started using palmtops, a driver used pencil and paper to record the amount and condition of the load at each site before taking the materials to a recycling facility. The driver then would spend up to an additional 35 minutes at the office entering the data into a desktop computer.

Now, at the collection site, the driver pulls down a menu on the palmtop's screen and points to the name of the site, the material being picked up, the amount, and any notes about contamination or other problems.

At the end of the day, the driver puts the palmtop in its cradle and downloads the information into the office computer system.

Money talks. Tanya McCoy-Caretti, executive director of the county's Solid Waste Management Authority, said she uses the data to check payments the recycling facility makes to the county. The facility pays less for materials contaminated with other substances, so the county's computerized records, entered on the spot, can be used to dispute unjustified contamination claims.

The state provides 90 percent of the funding for recycling capital equipment. McCoy-Caretti said that her county is the first in the state to use palmtop computers for its recycling program.

'Fred Donovan

Special to GCN

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