Waste management enters the digital revolution

wheeled bins

© Firina

The collection and recovery of waste is one of the major challenges facing our regions, demanding the deployment of significant human, technical and financial resources. The ongoing digitization of these services represents an opportunity to both improve them and reduce their environmental impact. According to a recent study (1), smart collection technologies represent a market that was worth $57.6 million in 2016, and could be worth more than $223.6 million by 2025. A close-up on three solutions that put data at the heart of these essential services.

Optimising waste collection in a region with smart containers

On a regional scale, efficient waste collection means being “in the right place, at the right time”. Thanks to data, new solutions are emerging to optimise the logistical collection chain. In particular, these solutions call on the real-time measurement of the content of containers.

A solution of this kind is deployed in Europe by SigrenEa, which already manages more than 10,000 drop-off containers, equipped with sensors that measure their content using ultra-sound or infrared technology. These sensors are adapted to the type of collected waste (organic, paper, glass, etc.), to the configuration of the container (underground, semi-underground, surface) and their volume. The collected data is analysed and then compiled with other indicators, such as the road traffic conditions, the weather or information from the city’s connected services. The data is then sent to the collection truck drivers, who can thus optimise their route on the basis of these parameters. By avoiding unnecessary trips to collect containers that are half-empty, this optimisation of the truck’s movements cuts operating costs and reduces environmental impacts.

The smart truck: waste collection trucks at the heart of the construction of the smart city

From air quality to temperature, local authorities monitor a number of indicators in an effort to improve the quality of life of inhabitants. The smart collection trucks aim at retrieving this data, by covering a number of points on their route on a daily basis. This innovation, developed by SUEZ, will be deployed in France as part of a pilot project in the Rennes Metropole. With their onboard information systems, these smart trucks can collect data about waste collection in real-time, in order to optimise collection rounds, but they are also fitted with sensors that can measure the air quality, or produce thermographic maps of the city, showing the levels of energy loss of buildings.

Networking players to improve waste recovery

Another major challenge consists of networking the waste collection services with the users who produce waste. The development of digital platforms offers a solution to this challenge by providing businesses, which are often widely spread over a given territory, with the possibility of directly expressing their needs to the waste collection and recovery service operators.

The American start-up  Rubicon Global has deployed a technological platform that puts a network of waste collectors in contact with professional customers (caterers, SMEs, hotels, etc.). This is an “on demand” system. When a business needs an operator to collect its waste, it can log onto the application, enter information about the type and the location of the waste, or the time when it must be collected. At this point, an auction-like system comes into action, in which the company can find the best collector, on the basis of the information that it has input. The selected operator then transports the waste to the most suitable recycling and recovery centre. By networking the various parties, the solution on offer from Rubicon Global allows businesses to cut their waste collection costs and to improve their environmental performance by increasing the volume of waste they recover.

(1) The Navigant Research report


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