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Monday - October 11, 2021

Smart Waste Management for Cleaner, More Livable Cities

When it comes to smart cities, most of us imagine smart traffic lights, futuristic public transportation, and sustainable energy. Waste management is often overlooked, perhaps because it’s not particularly glamorous. Anyone who has ever lived in a city, however, knows that improper waste management can quickly affect the health and well-being of a populace. Delays in collecting waste can lead to unsightly piles of trash, overflowing bins and unpleasant smells, as well as health risks due to bacteria and vermin.

The Challenges to Waste Management

The waste industry, which covers activities such as collection, disposal, recycling, and transportation, has historically faced many efficiency issues. Typically, these stem from the operational costs associated with the collection and transport of waste.

In the U.S., the recycling system currently faces several challenges, including confusion about what materials can be recycled and a recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream. To address the problem, the U.S. is exploring a change to performance metrics in areas such as recycling.

The Technology Case for Smart Waste Management

Smart waste strategies and solutions are the most direct way to address cities’ pain points when it comes to smart waste management and are increasingly seen as a necessary step in the drive to build more efficient and sustainable cities.

Smarter waste solutions are driven by technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, cloud-based applications, radio frequency identification (RFID) as well as global positioning systems (GPS) and route and fleet optimization software.

Cities that are already using smart waste technologies have reported 30 percent cost savings for waste collection.

The Potential for Smart Waste Management

Smart waste management is a growing sector within the smart city space. According to research firm Mordor Intelligence, the smart waste management market was valued at $1.77 billion in 2019 and will grow to $6.52 billion by 2025, registering a more than 25 percent compound annual growth rate. Mordor Intelligence’s report states that the U.S. accounts for the largest market share but also predicts high growth rates in Europe in the coming years.

Turning Waste into a Resource

Historically, many cities have had a reactive approach to dealing with waste management, such as investing in improvements because of regulatory or compliance reasons or because they were forced to do so in an emergency. But as more smart waste technology such as sensors and monitoring systems come onto the market, cities have an opportunity to use digital transformation to proactively tackle waste issues and, in doing so, reduce costs, their carbon footprint and pollution. It also enables them to contribute to global efforts to tackle climate change and build more circular economies.

A Central Management System for Waste

Paradox Engineering is introducing a smart waste solution among the ready-to-use applications of its PE Smart Urban Network. This is a next-generation connectivity platform and applications ecosystem that allows a smart city to manage a range of urban services.

A typical smart waste deployment involves urban waste bins equipped with Paradox Engineering – MinebeaMitsumi 6LoWPAN sensors that send data about the level of filling, date and time of waste collection, truck identity, and alerts in case of fire or vandalism. The PE Smart CMS receives the information and predicts when the bin will need emptying, with intelligent routing software optimizing routing for a truck. Trucks are then dispatched when the bins are close to full.

The battery-powered smart waste sensors can detect fill level and calculate the filling speed; measure temperature and humidity to detect fire; and detect movement to help identify vandalism, an accidental hit from a vehicle or even an animal intrusion.

The Central Management System combines the data sent from the various sensors and devices to turn the information into actionable insights for more efficient and effective waste management strategies to streamline costs.

The solution automates the process of route planning and scheduling for vehicles, freeing city managers and departments from routine tasks and allowing them to be more strategic in how they approach waste management. It can reduce the number of truck rolls and the mileage associated with them, which in turn reduces pollution and congestion.

The case for adopting smart waste technology will fast become an overwhelming one. And while cost-savings may not be as immediate as those derived from applications such as smart streetlighting, being able to rapidly take advantage of open and interoperable technologies in this area will become a necessity for building more sustainable and livable cities.

Jim Fiorentino
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