The need for “smart” waste collection

19th May 2017 | Recycling

“Smart Cities” has become a term which has been used and re-used time after time over the last few years. It is now a term at risk of losing meaning, differentiation and the ability to guide innovative and practical local authority policy. It is certainly the case that as a concept, every city wants to be “smart”. However, what are the tangible outcomes?

Waste collection is a core responsibility of local authorities across the UK. Usually, contracted out to one of a number of large service providers, the costs of this service are often a major local issue. In an era of increasingly ambitious waste diversion and recycling targets, local authorities are under pressure to find innovative ways of encouraging residential and business customers to consider they types and amount of waste to be disposed.

Smart waste

Waste collection offers an interesting example as an opportunity to bring cost savings and innovation changes which affect a wide section of the population and offers the opportunity for local political leadership. The potential wide impact, may dissuade some from interventions in this area, but the potential for better service outcomes is large.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) now widely available and smart chips which have become very affordable, it seems that we should be at a point where equipping every waste bin with technology in order to create an intelligent network of receptacles is underway. The data to be collected could include fill rates, time of last collection, whether the receptacle has overturned etc. We could start by equipping public litter bins, or residential or business wheelie bins. Each could produce useful outcomes. Low cost battery power, or ideally small-scale solar cells, could be used as a power source for such devices.

This rather basic set of data would begin to make some rather standard collections procedures much more efficient.

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