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SimCity Strategy Guides


Garbage & Recycling


Garbage is a perpetual nuisance in SimCity. This article covers the basics of how garbage collection works (or more frequently how it doesn't), why your garbage totals seem to escalate and how to get the most out of recycling.

The following sections can be found in this article:

  • Trucks & Traffic Problems
  • Reducing Garbage
  • Recyling
  • Trucks & Traffic Problems

    There are a few oddities of garbage collection which sometimes cause confusion.

    Why do garbage trucks wander about the city but don't pick up garbage?

    If you watch your garbage trucks in the garbage data map view you may notice that at a certain point they will continue on their rounds, stopping at every house but the garbage blocks remain the same.

    This occurs because garbage trucks will continue to circulate until every truck is full, but they will also not pick up part of a stack of garbage and cannot take a stack that is too large for their 5 ton capacity. Rather than simply 'knowing' that there are no more stacks of a suitable size, they will bimble around (like Goldilocks) until they find one which is just right.

    Why do trucks leave to go to other cities?

    Garbage trucks which are not yet full, but can't find a stack of garbage that will fit in your city, will leave to go to a neighboring city to look for stacks of garbage to fill up on. They will do this until the next garbage collection starts or until they are full up (whichever happens first) at which point they will return to your city to start the next collection. They will do this regardless of whether you are selling garbage collection to your neighbor.

    Why do trucks drive round and round in circles?

    Quite often garbage trucks will appear to faff about endlessly, driving around in loops instead of simply going to the next street or house with garbage and collecting it.

    This may be because they are nearly full and cannot take the stacks at nearby houses OR, quite often it is because of SimCity's traffic behavior which also affects service trucks. When going about their rounds garbage trucks will go from one building to the 'nearest' which means the one which is spatially nearest, not logically nearest. Because SimCity vehicles won't make a U-turn other than at a junction in order to cross the road, and because (since the first traffic patch) they will update their pathfinding decision based on the amount of traffic on a particular road, they will often drive around in rather long and circuitious routes in order to get to the 'next' building. At no point will they apply common sense and pick a more appropriate 'next' building just because there's too much traffic, or there's much bigger piles of trash waiting somewhere else (never mind the fact there's only 24 hours in a day to do each collection).

    Traffic Issues

    Garbage trucks can be a small but significant cause of traffic problems because they are slow moving and constantly stopping. For higher capacity roads typically vehicles should be able to overtake, however they will only switch lanes if they need to be in a different lane to turn off the road or to turn around at the end. If there's a chain of garbage trucks moving slowly and stopping often on the far right side of an avenue, and vehicles behind them want to turn right at the end, they will simply sit behind the trucks, rather than using the outer lanes to overtake and then pull back in on the right hand side before the junction in order to exit.

    There is unfortunately nothing that can be done to get rid of this problem, other than perhaps having more garbage dumps with fewer vehicles at each dump (meaning you'll get shorter conveys and a greater chance the conveys will be broken up as they make different pathfinding decisions).

    For more information:

  • Roads & Mass Transit: Overview
  • Reducing Garbage

    Garbage collection is important, because if it is not picked up, but allowed to overflow, it increases ground, air and water pollution which leads to sickness and unhappiness. Check your germs and garbage data maps to see if you have a garbage problem in your city, red blocks in the garbage data map indicates overflow garbage.

    Poor and uneducated Sims will generate more garbage than medium and high wealth educated Sims

    Processing garbage into landfills also causes ground pollution, Sims don't want to live near garbage dumps, incinerators cause high air pollution (what happened to the waste-to-energy incinerator Maxis? We want that back!) and of course bulldozing a full dump zone will instantly put a huge quantity of pollution into the ground and water.

    Reducing garbage is therefore ideal and the obvious way to do this is to encourage recycling! Recycling can generate income and can reduce the quantity of garbage generated down to less than 10%. Personally I think a 90% reduction in garbage seems pretty optimistic, our local county council claims to have an 'outstanding' 60% recycling rate (somewhat off-topic, I am going to take this opportunity to name-and-shame Berkshire County Council for failing to provide recycling collection where we live for the past 2 years! We'd probably mind less if it wasn't for that whole save-the-planet thing and ... oh yes... we pay them MONEY to take away our recycling!).

    You will also get higher amounts of recycling and lower amounts of garbage the more medium and high wealth Sims you have in your population. Low wealth Sims produce more garbage per property (hopefully just because there are more of them living in each property and not because EA are being a judgemental bunch of a-holes).

    For more information:

  • Education
  • Government: Understanding data maps
  • Recyling

    I've seen quite a lot of players who are stuck on the problem of how to get their recycling operational. After placing a recycling center, they find that their citizens simply don't generate ANY recycling.

    Sims with the educated status will recycle when facilities are available

    Recycling will only start to occur in your city once you have educated Sims. The game does not distinguish between different levels of education, so simply being educated is sufficient. The quantity of recycling a building produces will be proportional to the number of educated occupants in it. If you check your education data map, properties that show up as bright green should generate a lot more recycling than those that are lighter green, which in turn will recycle more than those which are white (and therefore uneducated). Poor enrollment will result in low recycling output.

    The recycling center will stop production once it has run out of recycling materials. It will only produce again once more when your vehicles return with the next day's collection.

    There were also some serious issues reported initially with recycling centers stopping processing for no good reason, these have been patched so if your recycling center ceases to function then it is (hopefully) just because it has run out of delivered materials.

    You can of course make money from recycling by placing a processor factory (Electronics specialization) as long as you have 5 medium tech industrial bulidings (which generally requires a Community College in your city). It is worth noting, however, that you will probably need more than one recycling plant to support it, because otherwise you can easily run it at a loss because of the intermittent production of raw materials from the recycling plant.

    Do volunteered recycling vehicles bring back material from neighboring cities?

    I don't know - I have searched extensively but haven't been able to get an answer to this. If anyone knows one way or another please email me!. Currently I think the smart money is on 'no they don't' as it's a regional issue and therefore something that probably doesn't work.

    For more information:

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