Let’s look at each of these areas a bit closer.
Smart waste collection
Collecting municipal solid waste is an expensive and sometimes polluting proposition. It requires an army of drivers who operate fleets of trucks that typically get poor gas mileage and spew emissions.
Smart waste collection solutions offer relief in several ways. They can eliminate unnecessary pick-ups on collection routes, along with the associated operating and maintenance costs for collection vehicles. They can also monitor participation rates for waste reduction programs such as recycling.
Trash container sensors
Time and fuel is wasted when garbage trucks include mostly empty trash containers in their collection schedule. To help better determine when trash containers really do need to be emptied, waste companies are installing micro sensors in them that communicate their fill-level status to a central data center. Only when the sensors indicate the container is almost full is the container added a collection route.
Trash can sensors can also be installed in conjunction with an integrated solar-power compactor that pushes down the contents of the container. This adds capacity to the container and further reduces the number of collection trips required.
RFID tags on trash and recycling bins
Some cities have started to embed radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in trash and recycling bins. In the UK, they’re sometimes called “bin bugs.”
The tags are associated with a specific resident or address and, similar to a barcode, can be read by equipment on collection trucks. Collected RFID information is sent to a city database where it can be analyzed to help cities in several ways. For instance, RFID enables collection trucks to record the weight and filling level of bins. Historical analysis of this data lets waste managers optimize collection routes and schedules. The result is fewer trucks running fewer routes results reduces truck emissions and air pollution. A European Commission technical study on the use of RFID in the recycling industry indicates that use of RFID systems can reduce waste collection costs by up to 40% due to the decrease in fuel consumption and air pollution.
In Cleveland, the city’s solid waste department used RFID container tagging to link trash and recycling bins to homeowners. After analyzing its trash stream data, the city determined that 42% of the 220,000 tons of trash collected by the city every year is recyclable. Calculating the resale value of the recyclables along with the savings in dump fees by removing these recyclables from the waste stream, the city expects to generate $5.5 million in total savings.
Another use for RFID data is to help track which residents set out their trash and recycling bins. Cities might then target educational programs toward those who don’t participate in recycling.
Finally, waste collectors are looking to incorporate RFID technology into pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) programs, where residents are charged for trash collection based on the amount they throw away. The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan has successfully deployed such a system.