Street sweeper

Last updated
A compact street sweeper tackles litter in Mexico City Streetsweeper CN100 Sinder.jpg
A compact street sweeper tackles litter in Mexico City
Street sweeper in Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City Barrido Manual Sinder.jpg
Street sweeper in Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

A street sweeper or street cleaner may refer to a person's occupation, or a machine that cleans streets. A street sweeper cleans the streets, usually in an urban area.

Street A public thoroughfare in a built environment

A street is a public thoroughfare in a built environment. It is a public parcel of land adjoining buildings in an urban context, on which people may freely assemble, interact, and move about. A street can be as simple as a level patch of dirt, but is more often paved with a hard, durable surface such as tarmac, concrete, cobblestone or brick. Portions may also be smoothed with asphalt, embedded with rails, or otherwise prepared to accommodate non-pedestrian traffic.

Urban area Human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment

An urban area or urban agglomeration, is a human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Urban areas are created through urbanization and are categorized by urban morphology as cities, towns, conurbations or suburbs. In urbanism, the term contrasts to rural areas such as villages and hamlets and in urban sociology or urban anthropology it contrasts with natural environment. The creation of early predecessors of urban areas during the urban revolution led to the creation of human civilization with modern urban planning, which along with other human activities such as exploitation of natural resources leads to human impact on the environment.


Street sweepers have been employed in cities since sanitation and waste removal became a priority. A street-sweeping person would use a broom and shovel to clean off litter, animal waste and filth that accumulated on streets. Later, water hoses were used to wash the streets.

Sanitation public health conditions related to clean drinking water and adequate disposal of human excreta and sewage

Sanitation refers to public health conditions related to clean drinking water and adequate treatment and disposal of human wastes and sewage. Preventing human contact with feces is part of sanitation, as is hand washing with soap. Sanitation systems aim to protect human health by providing a clean environment that will stop the transmission of disease, especially through the fecal–oral route. For example, diarrhea, a main cause of malnutrition and stunted growth in children, can be reduced through sanitation. There are many other diseases which are easily transmitted in communities that have low levels of sanitation, such as ascariasis, cholera, hepatitis, polio, schistosomiasis, trachoma, to name just a few.

Waste management activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal

Waste management are the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal. This includes the collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste, together with monitoring and regulation of the waste management process.

Litter Waste products that have been disposed improperly, without consent, at an inappropriate location

Litter consists of waste products that have been disposed of improperly, without consent, at an undesirable location. Litter can also be used as a verb. To litter means to drop and leave objects, often man-made, such as aluminum cans, cardboard boxes or plastic bottles on the ground and leave them there indefinitely or for others to dispose of as opposed to disposing of them properly.

Machines were created in the 19th century to do the job more efficiently. Today, modern street sweepers are mounted on truck bodies and can vacuum debris that accumulates in streets.

Truck freight motor vehicle

A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration; smaller varieties may be mechanically similar to some automobiles. Commercial trucks can be very large and powerful and may be configured to be mounted with specialized equipment, such as in the case of refuse trucks, fire trucks, concrete mixers, and suction excavators. Strictly speaking, a commercial vehicle without a tractor or other articulation is a "straight truck" while one designed specifically to pull a trailer is not a truck but a "tractor".

Vacuum cleaner Device that sucks up dust and dirt from floors

A vacuum cleaner, also known as a sweeper or hoover, is a device that uses an air pump, to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt from floors and from other surfaces such as upholstery and draperies.


Manual sweeping

The need for rubbish to be removed from roads in built-up areas has existed for centuries.

Sometimes a local law in a town or city ordered the owner of occupier of each address to clean the length of that road that passed his address.

Sometimes when much traffic was horse-drawn vehicles or ridden horses, there were street cleaners who selectively removed horse droppings because of their value as fertilizer on nearby rural areas.

Manure Organic matter, mostly derived from animal feces, which can be used as fertilizer

Manure is organic matter, mostly derived from animal feces except in the case of green manure, which can be used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are utilised by bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the soil. Higher organisms then feed on the fungi and bacteria in a chain of life that comprises the soil food web.

Fertilizer Substance added to soils to supply plant nutrients for a better growth

A fertilizer or fertiliser is any material of natural or synthetic origin that is applied to soils or to plant tissues to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. Many sources of fertilizer exist, both natural and industrially produced.

Mechanical sweepers in the United Kingdom

Mechanical street sweeper by Joseph Whitworth Illustrirte Zeitung (1843) 06 006 1 Whitworth's Strassenreinigungsmaschine.PNG
Mechanical street sweeper by Joseph Whitworth
Monument of street sweeper in St. Petersburg, in Russia Dvornik.JPG
Monument of street sweeper in St. Petersburg, in Russia

By the 1840s, Manchester, England, had become known as the first industrial city. Manchester had one of the largest textile industries of that time. As a result, the robust metropolis was said to be England’s unhealthiest place to live. [1] In response to this unsanitary environment, Joseph Whitworth invented the mechanical street sweeper. The street sweeper was designed with the primary objective to remove rubbish from streets in order to maintain aesthetic goals and safety. [2] [3]

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a major city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. The Greater Manchester Built-up Area is the United Kingdom's second-most populous, with a population of 2.55 million. The city's metropolitan area is the second largest in the United Kingdom, after London, with a population of over 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council. Manchester is a major international centre of tourism, commerce and industrial heritage. Manchester is frequently referred to as the United Kingdom's second city.

Joseph Whitworth English engineer, entrepreneur

Sir Joseph Whitworth, 1st Baronet was an English engineer, entrepreneur, inventor and philanthropist. In 1841, he devised the British Standard Whitworth system, which created an accepted standard for screw threads. Whitworth also created the Whitworth rifle, often called the "sharpshooter" because of its accuracy and considered one of the earliest examples of a sniper rifle.

Mechanical sweepers in the United States

The very first street sweeping machine was patented in 1849 by its inventor, C.S. Bishop. For a long time, street sweepers were just rotating disks covered with wire bristles. These rotating disks served as mechanical brooms that swept the dirt on the streets. [4]

A common misconception is that Charles Brooks invented the street sweeper in America in 1896. Brooks' design, far from being the "first street sweeper," was just a variation of what already existed, and the patent for it was among the more than 300 street sweeper patents issued in the United States before 1900. Most 19th-century sweepers, including the one in Brooks' patent, were horsecarts with no engine on board. The wheels on the cart turned gears or chains which drove the brush and belt. The first self-propelled sweeper vehicle patented in the USA, driven by steam engine and intended for cleaning railroad tracks was patented in 1868, patent #79606. Eureka C. Bowne was the first known woman to get a patent for a street sweeper in 1879, patent #222447. "Her success was great," wrote Matilda Joslyn Gage in The North American Review, Volume 136, Issue 318, May 1883. [5]

John M. Murphy called at the offices of American Tower and Tank Company in Elgin, Illinois, in the fall of 1911. He had a plan of a motor driven pickup street sweeper. The American Tower and Tank Company had been formed in 1903 by Charles A. Whiting and James Todd. They called in a recently acquired silent partner, Daniel M. Todd, and it was decided to hire Mr. Murphy and begin the development of his idea. That started what has become the Elgin Sweeper Company. [6]

After two years of trial, development, experimentation, and research, a sweeper was achieved which Murphy was satisfied performed all of the sweeping functions in the manner he had envisioned – one which partners James and Daniel M. Todd and Charles A. Whiting were willing to risk a reputation gained from 30 years manufacturing experience. [6]

In the fall of 1913, the City of Boise, Idaho, purchased the first Elgin Sweeper, following a demonstration. Boise Street Commissioner, Thomas Finegan, made a comparison showing a savings of $2,716.77 from the Elgin motorized sweeper when used rather than a horse-drawn sweeper. [6]

Following its introduction and initial sales, John M. Murphy continued the perfection of his sweeper. In 1917, US patents were filed and issues for J. M. Murphy, Street Sweeping machine #1,239,293. [6]

Technological advancement

The goal of simple debris removal did not change until the 1970s, when policymakers begun to reflect concern for water quality. In the United States, The lag time in which street sweepers responded can be pinpointed to the Runoff Report of 1998. [7] As older street sweepers were only effective in removing large particles of road debris, small particles of debris remained behind in large quantities. [8] The remaining debris was not seen as an aesthetic issue because rain would wash them away. Today, small particles are known to carry a substantial portion of the stormwater pollutant load.

Street sweeping can be an effective measure in reducing pollutants in stormwater runoff. [9] The Environmental Protection Agency considers street sweeping best practice in protecting water quality.

Modern sweepers

Newer mechanical street sweeper in Ohio HudsonScwarzeM6000crop.jpg
Newer mechanical street sweeper in Ohio
Walk behind street sweeper is used to clean a sidewalk alongside pedestrians

Newer street sweepers are capable of collecting small particles of debris. [2] Many street sweepers produced today are PM10 and PM2.5 certified, [3] meaning that they are capable of collecting and holding particulate matter sized less than 10μm and even down to 2.5μm. [10] Despite advancements in street sweeping technology, the mechanical broom type street sweeper accounts for approximately 90 percent of all street sweepers used in the United States today. [11]

Many modern street sweepers are equipped with water tanks and sprayers used to loosen particles and reduce dust. The brooms gather debris into a main collection area from which it is vacuumed and pumped into a collection bin or hopper. Others need no water but for example high-vacuum only to suppress dust.

A regenerative air street sweeper uses forced air to create a swirling effect inside a contained sweeping head and then uses the negative pressure on the suction side to place the road debris inside a hopper. Debris is removed from the air by centrifugal separation, keeping particulate matter inside the hopper. [12] Many regenerative air sweepers are AQMD certified by their manufacturers and can pick up particles as small as 10 micrometres or less (PM10), a leading cause of stormwater pollution.

However a modern regenerative air street sweeper faces the challenge of noise level due to the fact that regenerative air street sweeper requires an extra engine to power the vacuum pump required to create the negative pressure for placing debris into a hopper.

Modern machines can cost $US300,000 each and a large city can remove upwards of 18,000 tons of materials annually via its fleet of sweepers. If poorly maintained, modern sweepers can have very poor cleaning performance. [13]

Modern sweepers in Asia

Green Star Mech Sweeper Taipei Port 2012 Taipei Port Commerce 689-BS 20130808.jpg
Green Star Mech Sweeper Taipei Port 2012

Sweeper manufacturers in Asia have also developed less sophisticated mechanical and regenerative air sweepers which differ in design to the American and European sweepers. China and Taiwan have both adapted the mechanical sweeper design of using two main brooms mounted vertically at the back of the hopper to carry debris into hopper. This design is less complicated and more cost effective than the mechanical belt and broom setup.


People in Taiwan have promoted street cleaning practices while commuting between home and office. Those who like to promote environmental protection concepts may also video tape their street cleaning processes and upload the footage to video sharing platforms (such as YouTube) for the purpose of educating the public to not litter on streets. According to the people doing street cleaning in Taiwan, the most frequent street debris in Taipei city are cigarette butts, plastic bags and plastic bottles.[ citation needed ]

United Kingdom

Young Muslims, who are volunteers of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA), are gathered in London, Manchester, Leicester and Cardiff downtown cities across UK when people are celebrating New Year's Day, which not only clean up the rubbish on streets but also show kindness and services of people in UK. [14]


While patients are waiting in line, technical staff, doctors and nurses in eastern Uzbekistan are sweeping the streets and collect garbage, but some people participating the street cleaning are forced labor that pick up the rubbish out of compulsory duty to clean up the streets. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dust small particles in the air

Dust is made of fine particles of solid matter. On Earth, it generally consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil, dust lifted by wind, volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments contains small amounts of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt meteorite particles, and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.

Toner powder used in laser printers and photocopiers to form the printed text and images

Toner is a powder mixture used in laser printers and photocopiers to form the printed text and images on the paper, in general through a toner cartridge. Mostly granulated plastic, early mixtures only added carbon powder and iron oxide, however mixtures have since been developed containing polypropylene, fumed silica, and various minerals for triboelectrification. Toner using plant-derived plastic also exists as an alternative to petroleum plastic. Toner particles are melted by the heat of the fuser, and are thus bonded to the paper.

The Hoover Company an American vacuum cleaner company

Hoover is a vacuum cleaner company founded in Ohio in the US. It also established a major base in the United Kingdom and mostly in the 20th century it dominated the electric vacuum cleaner industry, to the point where the Hoover brand name became synonymous with vacuum cleaners and vacuuming in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Hoover was part of the Whirlpool Corporation but was sold in 2006 to Techtronic Industries for $107 million. Hoover Europe/UK split from Hoover US in 1993 and was acquired by Techtronic Industries, a company based in Hong Kong.

Air purifier

An air purifier or air cleaner is a device which removes contaminants from the air in a room to improve indoor air quality. These devices are commonly marketed as being beneficial to allergy sufferers and asthmatics, and at reducing or eliminating second-hand tobacco smoke. The commercially graded air purifiers are manufactured as either small stand-alone units or larger units that can be affixed to an air handler unit (AHU) or to an HVAC unit found in the medical, industrial, and commercial industries. Air purifiers may also be used in industry to remove impurities such as CO2 from air before processing. Pressure swing adsorbers or other adsorption techniques are typically used for this.

Housekeeping refers to the management of duties and chores involved in the running of a household, such as cleaning, cooking, home maintenance, shopping, laundry and bill payment. These tasks may be performed by members of the household, or by other persons hired for the purpose. The term is also used to refer to the money allocated for such use. By extension, an office or organization, as well as the maintenance of computer storage systems.

Swiffer line of cleaning products by Procter & Gamble

Swiffer is a line of cleaning products by Procter & Gamble. Introduced in 1999, the brand uses the "razor-and-blades" business model; whereby the consumer purchases the handle assembly at a low price, but must continue to purchase replacement refills and pads over the lifespan of the product. Swiffer has become a half-billion dollar brand in fifteen countries.

Carpet sweeper

A carpet sweeper is a mechanical device for the cleaning of carpets. They were popular before the introduction of the vacuum cleaner and have been largely superseded by them. However, they continue to be used in many home and commercial applications because they are lightweight and quiet, enabling users to quickly clean small messes up from the floor without disturbing patrons, patients, babies and pets, and because they do not require electricity to operate.

Carpet cleaning, for appearance, and the removal of stains, dirt, and allergens is done through several methods. Clean carpets are recognized by manufacturers as being more visually pleasing, potentially longer-lasting, and probably healthier than poorly maintained carpets.

Automated pool cleaner

An automated pool cleaner is a vacuum cleaner intended to collect debris and sediment from swimming pools with minimal human intervention. Popularly dubbed a ''creepy-crawly'' or "Kreepy Krauly" in South Africa, it is one of several types of swimming pool vacuum cleaners. Other major types are battery-powered or manually powered wands effective only for very small pools, kiddie or wading pools and small spas and hot tubs, and battery-powered, handheld/extended reach pool and spa vacuums. The latter are powered by rechargeable batteries and can be hand held attached to a telescopic pole used for extended reach. These are used for small to medium-sized pools, larger spas, and to spot clean larger pools. The name ''creepy-crawly'' derives from the vacuum's webbed-nozzle crawling creepily through the underwater mist as well as for its creepy suction noise. ''Creepy crawly'' originally referred to strange creatures that crawl on the bottom of the ocean, as the webbed nozzle of the vacuum slightly resembles an octopus in both appearance and suction ability.

Sand cleaning machine

A sand cleaning machine, beach cleaner, or (colloquially) sandboni is a vehicle that drags a raking or sifting device over beach sand to remove rubbish and other foreign matter. They are manually self-pulled vehicles on tracks or wheels or pulled by quad-bike or tractor. Seaside cities use beach cleaning machines to combat the problems of litter left by beach patrons and other pollution washed up on their shores. A chief task in beach cleaning strategies is finding the best way to handle waste matter on the beaches, taking into consideration beach erosion and changing terrain. Beach cleaning machines work by collecting sand by way of a scoop or drag mechanism and then raking or sifting anything large enough to be considered foreign matter, including sticks, stones, litter and other items. Similar applications include lake beaches, sandfields for beach volleyball and kindergarten and playing field sandpits. The word "sandboni" is a back-formation referencing the ice-surfacing machine Zamboni.

Toner refill

Toner refilling is the practice of refilling empty laser printer toner cartridges with new toner powder. This enables the cartridge to be reused, saving the cost of a complete new cartridge and the impact of the waste and disposal of the old one.

Floor cleaning

Floor cleaning is a major occupation throughout the world. The main job of most cleaners is to clean floors.

James M. Spangler American inventor

James Murray Spangler was an American inventor, salesman and janitor who invented the first commercially successful portable electric vacuum cleaner that revolutionized household carpet cleaning. His device was not the first vacuum cleaner, but it was the first that was practical for home use. It was the first to use both a cloth filter bag and cleaning attachments. Spangler improved this basic model and received a patent for it in 1908. He formed the Electric Suction Sweeper Company to manufacture his device. William H. Hoover was so impressed with the vacuum cleaner that he bought into Spangler's business and patents.

A suction excavator or vacuum excavator is a construction vehicle that removes materials from a hole on land, or removes heavy debris on land.

Central vacuum cleaner

A central vacuum cleaner is a type of vacuum cleaner appliance, installed into a building as a semi-permanent fixture. Central vacuum systems are designed to remove dirt and debris from homes and buildings, sending dirt particles through tubing installed inside the walls to a collection container in a remote utility space. The power unit is a permanent fixture, usually installed in a basement, garage, or storage room, along with the collection container. Inlets are installed in walls throughout the building that attach to power hoses and other central vacuum accessories to remove dust, particles, and small debris from interior rooms. Most power hoses usually have a power switch located on the handle.

Bissell American business

Bissell Inc., also known as Bissell Homecare, is a privately owned vacuum cleaner and floor care product manufacturing corporation headquartered in Walker, Michigan in Greater Grand Rapids. The company is the number one manufacturer of floor care products in North America in terms of sales, with 20% marketshare.

Floor scrubber

Floor scrubber is a floor cleaning device. It can be simple tools such as floor mops and floor brushes, or in a form of walk-behind or ride-on machines to clean larger floor areas by injecting water with cleaning solution, scrubbing, and lifting the residuals off the floor. With the advancement in robotics, autonomous floor-scrubbing robots are available as well.


  1. "A Brief History of Manchester".
  2. 1 2 Pitt R, Bannerman R, Sutherland R, 2004. The role of street cleaning in stormwater management, Environmental and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. 1-8
  3. 1 2 Chang Y, Chou C, Su K, Tseng C, 2004. Effectiveness of street sweeping and washing for controlling ambient TSP, Atmospheric Environment, 39: 1891–1902
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2011-07-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. 1 2 3 4 (Source of Historic Information, The Sweep of Time by William A. Richman, 1962) (Information taken from published book) [ full citation needed ]
  7. "Results of the Nationwide Urban Runoff Program" (PDF). Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  8. German, J.; Svensson, G. (2002). "Metal content and particle size distribution of street sediments and street sweeping waste". Water Science and Technology. 46 (6–7): 191–198. Archived from the original on 2013-12-17.
  9. EPA - Stormwater Menu of BMPs Archived 2012-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
  10. PM-10 Efficient Street Sweepers
  11. Wildlife and Habitat | Ecosystems | Environmental Review Toolkit | FHWA
  12. "How The Regenerative Air System Works". Tymco. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  13. Donovan, Kevin (8 October 2014). "Poorly maintained Toronto street sweepers can't do dirty work". Toronto Star . TorStar . Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  14. Lucy Pasha-Robinson (2018-01-03). "Muslim youth group spends New Year's Day cleaning streets across UK". The Independent.
  15. Khurmat Babajan, Farangis Najibullah (2018-07-09). "The Doctor Will See You -- As Soon As He's Done Street-Cleaning". RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty.