Smart Waste Management and Increasing Adoption of IoT Solutions

Valued at $1.41 billion in 2018, the smart waste management market is projected to exceed $5.19 billion by 2025

By Annmette HaugaardNordsense

During public emergencies, access to actionable insight is crucial for government leaders who must reallocate limited resources to maintain citizens’ safety. With severe cuts in income, municipalities worldwide are reevaluating their budgets due to economic effects of the Coronavirus global pandemic.

This Spring, the Department of Homeland Security designated the solid waste industry as part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) noted the many inherent challenge of the current paradigm for collections, as many communities report up to a 38 percent increase in residential trash collected. In addition, SWANA also emphasized how sanitation employees must work even more carefully right now, sometimes with fewer people.

In Barcelona, Spain, the city’s cleaning and waste collection services will be guaranteed while the specific measures to combat COVID-19 are in place. Teams have been adapted to the circumstances, with a shift system to ensure service provision and, more importantly, to protect workers during the application of the prevention measures dictated by the health authorities.

According to a post on the Barcelona City Council informational website, priority will be given to areas where there are no waste containers, the emptying of litter bins, cleaning around containers and in hospital areas, healthcare centres and markets selling food. Officials assured residents that all logistical measures will be available at each depot to avoid workers being concentrated together, with cleaning and waste collection teams setting off at intervals with alternating shifts.

On Tuesday April 7, New York City announced cuts to its sanitation services as part of its efforts to address revenue losses resulting from COVID-19. According to Politico, NYC plans to save $21 million by temporarily suspending organics collection, a program environmental advocates and other city leaders have said is crucial to cut the city's greenhouse gas emissions.

Globally, 2.3 billion tons of waste is produced annually - an amount that is expected to reach 3.4 billion tons by 2050. Across the globe, managing such large quantities of waste is a major challenge with which many municipalities and regions struggle – when there is no crisis. Instability and uncertainty from situations like the current pandemic exacerbate these challenges exponentially.

Fortunately, increased interest in smart city initiatives is driving innovation in the waste management sector. Valued at $1.41 billion in 2018, the smart waste management market is projected to exceed $5.19 billion by 2025.

Smart waste management is an essential part of the design and development of smart cities. The growth of this sector is an indication of the increased adoption of smart city initiatives across the globe. It’s also the result of widespread availability and decreasing cost of commercially viable IoT technologies.

While several technological innovations offer solutions that improve waste management initiatives, IoT holds the promise of delivering the best outcomes for this sector.

Embedded with predictive analytics and machine learning technologies, IoT devices provide cities with the access to data intelligence and real-time insights that allow them to allocate resources more efficiently.

The role of IoT in smart waste management

IoT is revolutionizing waste managementoperations via analytics, route optimization, and intelligent monitoring. Waste management companies are taking advantage of data visualization platforms, network infrastructure, and sensors to generate actionable insights for better data-driven decisions. For instance, installing cameras and fill-level sensors inside trash bins help optimize scheduling for hauler fleets. This brings several benefits including

  • Reduction in collection cost
  • Reduces unnecessary fuel consumption
  • No missed pickups
  • Reduced overflows
  • Waste generation geo-specific data analysis
  • Reduced emissions due to smarter scheduling of garbage collection trucks.

How IoT facilitates smart waste management

Let’s consider typical operating procedures in waste management and recycling sectors. Waste management companies schedule pick up operations by tracking disposals in their service areas using historical patterns and aligning it with the availability of staff and fleet resources. Since waste receptacles don’t need to be emptied on a set schedule, this leads to operational inefficiencies resulting in missed/unnecessary pickups and wasted resources.

IoT solutions provide real-time visibility into the collection status of receptacles. These sensors are relatively inexpensive and send alerts when trash bins are full or near-full.

With this information, IoT platforms can come up with optimum routes for garbage collection trucks, thus creating a pickup process that doesn’t waste manpower, fuel and fleet resources.

Not only does this streamline waste collection and transportation activities, but it also facilitates optimized resource utilization, making for smarter waste management lifecycles.

Other IoT-enabled solutions involve the integration of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology with waste/recycling containers to allow haulers track assets out in the field. This ensures that waste bins don’t go missing.

IoT: Facilitating data-driven waste management operations

Combining these technologies provide waste management organizations with additional layers of intelligence into their operations. With real-time data updates from IoT solutions, municipalities become more agile and less dependent on historical patterns, projections and estimates. This enables them to become truly data-driven and better prepared to deliver high-quality waste management services.

Furthermore, embedding connected technologies within waste receptacles allows sanitation teams to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive even more efficiencies, reduce operational costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Generally, IoT can be applied in the following waste management use cases

  • Sensors for asset tracking and on-time collection
  • Collection of real-time data for robust analytics
  • Route optimization
  • Predictive and preventive maintenance to cut costs
  • Dynamic routes to improve route density
  • Enabling telematics in trucks and autonomous collection vehicles

Also, the decreasing cost and widespread availability of connected technologies is making it possible to discover more use cases for IoT in waste management.

What’s more, applying IoT solutions across these use cases make sanitation practices eco-friendlier. By optimizing garbage pickup activities, IoT helps reduce the number of unnecessary trips for haulers, thus reducing their overall carbon footprint, fuel consumption and time on local streets blocking traffic. 

Wrapping Up

Tackling waste management comes with a unique set of operational challenges. Automating the handling, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste products, especially in highly populated areas, requires systemic coordination to keep pace with rising solid waste outputs.

Leveraging smart waste management practices and technologies is no longer optional — it has become a vital necessity for municipalities and waste management teams looking to keep a handle on waste in their service areas.

While the sector is still at a nascent phase, the intersection of autonomous vehicles, IoT solutions, and machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity is creating opportunities for new operational efficiencies. This will facilitate the development of sustainable and cost-effective waste management practices, laying the groundwork for intelligent waste management process.

Annmette Haugaard is the Director of EMEA Sales for Nordsense, an award-winning, global provider of Smart Waste Collection solutions. Contact Ann at [email protected]

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Nordsense tracks and diagnoses daily waste management workloads, uncovering trends and inefficiencies that result in streets littered with trash. Remote monitoring, intelligent routing and fleet management provide sanitation departments with real-time insights on ideal container placement to prevent bins from overflowing, and course-correct routes to cut down on traffic congestion, minimizing fuel consumption, maintenance costs and carbon footprint

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