IoT Technology Increases Municipal Waste Management Efficiency
By Kristina Heinze
You’ve probably come across an overflowing trash bin at least once or twice if you live in a major city. That’s because cities generate more waste than other areas of residency. For example, the City of Chicago accounts for nearly 70% of all waste generated in the state of Illinois, which isn’t all that surprising knowing that population density tends to be higher in cities. More people means more garbage and, as nations become more urbanized, that number will only increase. In fact, The World Bank estimates that urban waste generation will grow by 70% in the next decade, increasing waste management expenses by $170 billion.
But it’s not all bad news; waste management is gaining attention from innovative companies that want to play a bigger role in the development of smart cities—an initiative that uses technology to improve urban infrastructures. They’re using the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of connected devices that communicate with each other, to help municipal collection agencies and waste management businesses increase efficiency and reduce costs. In addition, IoT technology can help entire cities reduce their carbon footprint by cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. Here are a few ways that cities and municipalities can create sustainable futures with smart city technologies.
Sensor Technology Reduces Trips and Saves Costs
Most municipalities have collection agencies that depend on a system of scheduled pickups, but what they may not realize is that often haulers are servicing containers that are empty or only partially full. By servicing these containers, haulers are making unnecessary stops, which not only wastes money and fuel but also increases the amount of carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Companies are addressing this problem by equipping trash containers with machine to machine (M2M) sensors.
For example, OnePlus Systems, a Northbrook-based manufacturer of remote fullness and control technology systems, adds sensors to industrial compactors in local hotspots like Navy Pier. By measuring fill-levels of these compactors through sensors, these companies can reduce the frequency of pickups by signalling their waste hauler for disposal services only when a compactor is full. In fact, OnePlus’ fullness monitors have been proven to reduce the number of pickups by an average of 40%, saving local agencies millions of dollars on hauling fees and reducing methane emissions—the second most prevalent greenhouse gas in the U.S.
Creating Better, More Efficient Routes
M2M sensors have many benefits. Not only can they measure fill-levels, but they can also help agencies make their hauling routes more efficient. SmartBin, a global provider of intelligent remote monitoring systems for the waste and recycling sectors, developed and deployed smart routing software to help Australia-based Corio Waste Management optimize their collection runs.
Corio was given the task of collecting trash in a province where collection points were spread out over 10 to 15 kilometers. Corio’s haulers made long trips only to find the trash bins they had come across were either partly full or completely empty. SmartBin addressed this problem by installing sensors into the bins, connecting them to a larger IoT system and deploying state-of-the-art routing software. This gave Corio the ability to monitor the fill-levels of each bin and adjust their hauling routes to make pickups only for bins that were full or near full. By using SmartBin’s connected technology, Corio not only cut down on costs but also reduced its carbon footprint.
Tracking Bins, Monitoring Progress with Cutting Edge Logistics
In addition to waste management, SmartBin’s IoT devices have also been applied to the nonprofit and recycling industries. For example, SmartBin aided Goodwill, which collects thousands of pounds of recycled and donated materials, by using a connected operations platform. Located in most major cities, Goodwill would send their drivers out at regular intervals to empty collection bins and record fill-levels. The organization quickly realized that this procedure was neither economically nor environmentally sustainable. SmartBin’s connected IoT platform helped Goodwill remotely identify the bins that needed pickups and map their routes accordingly, saving the organization both time and resources.
Building smart, sustainable cities will require further innovation as populations continue to grow and budgets continue to shrink, but industry leaders like OnePlus and SmartBin are paving the way with IoT solutions that help businesses and municipalities cut costs, better manage natural resources, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo: Tony Jacobson