An introduction to smart waste management
By John Dillon, VP Marketing Superfy, 5 April 2023
An introduction to smart waste management
Smart waste management is all about revolutionizing waste management using technology and data, thus creating a more efficient and sustainable way of managing waste.
Smart waste management also looks to solve the complexities associated with waste management overall – which isn’t just the amount of waste that needs to be processed, but also looking at how operational waste management can work better.
Smart waste management is still considered a fairly new concept – with the first “smart” trash can being invented in 2013 in France.
Since then, various bins powered by technology and AI have surfaced, and commercial smart waste bins are in use across some of the biggest and most influential cities in the world. But, due to its newness – a lot of locations around the world are still becoming accustomed to smart waste management and how it can revolutionize the way that we view, process, and approach waste overall.
What is a smart waste city?
A smart waste city is a city that has implemented a smart waste management system to optimize the collection, processing, and disposal of waste. In a smart waste city, sensors and other technologies are used to monitor the amount and type of waste being generated, and to optimize the routes taken by waste collection trucks to minimize the environmental impact of waste management.
Smart waste cities may also use data analytics to identify trends in waste generation and to develop strategies to reduce the amount of waste being produced. Additionally, smart waste cities may use education and outreach programs to encourage citizens to reduce their waste and recycle more. By implementing a smart waste management system, cities can save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more sustainable future.
An example of a smart waste city
Amsterdam has implemented a number of innovative technologies to improve the efficiency and sustainability of its waste management system. For example, the city has implemented a smart waste collection system that uses sensors to monitor the fullness of trash cans, and to optimize the routes taken by waste collection trucks.
This has helped to reduce the environmental impact of waste management and to save the city money. Amsterdam has also implemented a number of recycling programs, including a program that encourages residents to separate their waste into different bins for different types of materials.
Additionally, the city has implemented a composting program to divert organic waste from landfills and to create nutrient-rich compost for use in urban farming. These efforts have helped Amsterdam to significantly reduce its waste and to create a more sustainable future.
What is IoT, and how does it help smart waste management?
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnected network of physical devices, vehicles, and other objects that are equipped with sensors and software that enable them to collect and exchange data. In the context of smart waste management, IoT technologies can be used to optimize the collection, processing, and disposal of waste.
For example, sensors can be placed on bins to monitor the level of waste inside and to optimize the routes taken by waste collection trucks. GPS tracking can be implemented to monitor the location of waste collection vehicles and to optimize their routes. Finally, Data analytics software can be used to analyze the data collected by these sensors and to identify trends and patterns in waste generation.
By using IoT technologies, smart waste management systems can become more efficient and effective at reducing waste and increasing recycling rates.
What can smart waste management look like?
We’ve already established that smart waste management is about marrying technology and data, so let’s break down what this could look like in theory.
Centralized dashboards to optimize bin collection time
When we look at waste collection, data showing the best time to collect waste from bins – as an example – is a great way to embody a smart waste management technique that works. The data from the dashboard informs you not only when bins are full (and need to be emptied) but also the best times to do this to avoid traffic, overflowing bins and congestion from refuse trucks.
Measuring the type of waste that is collected and how much
Whether it’s measuring separate types of waste (solid, water, recyclables) data can also enable you to see which types of waste are more prevalent. For example, in an industrial location there may be higher amounts of water waste and chemical waste, whereas in an urban area’s food waste and recyclables will be more popular.
In turn, this data can enable you to optimize your waste team and also forecast what types of waste you’re going to need to process. This can work well across cities but additionally within organizations – knowing the type of waste you’re producing and what you need to do to dispose of it is half of the problem! The only way you can do this is with the right data.
What areas are and are not recycling
In urban or even rural areas, recycling is a big part of what citizens do on a day to day. Additionally, looking at this from an organizational/commercial scale, we already know how crucial recycling is for smart waste and waste management overall. Data will enable you to see which areas are or aren’t recycling, so you can tackle the problem at the root cause – instead of assuming.
Measuring waste teams against KPIs
Without data, you don’t know how your waste teams are performing. KPI’s and metrics that people can follow enable you to keep the whole smart waste management cycle accountable.
Up to date, comprehensive programs
Smart waste management can only be achieved if you’ve got the best programs that work for your specific needs. Sometimes, you don’t need the fanciest technology in the world – you just need technology that is accessible, affordable, and produces the results that you need. This could be smart bins, this could be a specific program, or it could be a physical piece of technology that you need.
Integrations and complementary technology
For specific projects – especially as a city manager – you will be relying on integrations and complementary technology to bring your smart waste management strategy to life. This could be an app to engage citizens, or it could be creating a website to boost your initiative. Smart waste management is also about creating accessibility and community, so integrations and complementary technology can be an excellent addition.
Strong support team and infrastructure
Ultimately, to execute your smart waste management strategy, you need to have a great infrastructure and a capable, upskilled team. You can have all of the technology and the data in the world, but if you haven’t got the right people to use it? It can feel completely redundant.
What can be a great first step to kick-start your smart waste management strategy?
An excellent starting point is investing in a smart bin system and an excellent way to encourage communities and the citizens in them to start being more conscious with their waste management.
What is a smart bin?
A smart bin is a waste collection bin that is equipped with sensors and other technologies that enable it to collect data on the amount and types of waste being deposited in the bin.
Smart bins may also be equipped with GPS tracking devices and data analytics software, which can be used to optimize the routes taken by waste collection trucks and to identify trends in waste generation.
They can be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of waste collection and management, and they can also provide data that can be used to develop strategies to reduce waste and increase recycling rates. Smart bins are an important component of smart waste management systems, as they enable the collection of data that is critical to the optimization of these systems.
What are the advantages of smart bins and smart waste management?
Data collection: Smart bins are equipped with sensors and other technologies that enable them to collect data on the amount and types of waste being deposited in the bin. This data can be used to optimize the routes taken by waste collection trucks and to identify trends in waste generation.
Efficient waste collection: Smart bins can help to improve the efficiency of waste collection by providing data on the fullness of the bin and the types of waste being deposited. This can help to reduce the number of waste collection trips and to save money on waste management costs.
Waste reduction: Smart bins can provide data that can be used to develop strategies to reduce waste and increase recycling rates. This can help to reduce the overall amount of waste being generated and to improve the sustainability of waste management practices.
Public education: Smart bins can be equipped with displays or other features that provide information to the public about waste management and recycling practices. This can help to educate the public about the importance of reducing waste and increasing recycling rates.
What are the disadvantages of smart waste management?
Although smart waste management is incredible, innovative – and we believe the future of waste management, there are some criticisms of it.
Upfront cost of implementation: Installing hardware and software solutions in any new architecture is going to cost money, which can be a barrier for smaller organizations or municipalities. However, studies have shown the return on investment (ROI) of implementing a smart waste management solution yields significant benefits in operational efficiency, landfill reduction and contamination reduction.
Maintenance costs: While a smart waste management solution will require maintenance costs for the technical management of the solution, this should be considered against the total savings gained from more efficient operations overall. However, despite the overall advantages, some organizations may not be willing to adapt their operations because of this.
Lack of technical knowledge: Despite the advantages of any technical solution to a work practise or operation, a new approach to doing something can be a difficult thing to adapt to and for this reason, some organizations may see their lack of understanding or technical ability a reason for not changing.
What is the future of smart waste management?
While change can be difficult and technology is often a big driver of change across many different sectors, it is imperative that organizations begin to understand the positive impacts that a smart waste management solution can have for them, both operationally and environmentally. We believe that the future of smart waste management is bright and there is a huge incentive globally to create a more sustainable world. However, we are still in the beginnings of a smart waste future, and to create meaningful change takes time.