The effort to reduce waste and increase recycling dates back to the late 1990s, when keywords such as ‘circular economy’ were yet to come. As climate change mitigation became a priority for national and local governments, the early 2000s saw a growing hype towards ‘zero waste’, an idea that the Zero Waste International Alliance officially defined as “the conservation of all resources (…) without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health”.

The ambitious goal was picked up by cities in the 2010s, given the improvement of solid waste management and recycling was acknowledged as one of the most effective ways to cut carbon footprint at local level. Policies and actual measures to achieve the zero-waste target (in most cases, it is set as a 90% diversion rate or higher) vary a lot, with many communities pausing or hindering their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Europe, Barcelona has recently committed to becoming a zero waste city by increasing separate waste collection rate to 67% by 2027 (the European average is about 48%) and reducing garbage generation per capita to 427 kg per year by 2027. The German Munich is walking a similar path, with local waste management company AWM acting to cut waste from households per capita to 310 kg per year by 2035 and reduce municipal garbage in landfills and waste incineration to a feasible minimum.

In the US, even cities with a stagnant recycling performance such as Chicago are hurrying up. Organics recycling was the initial focus of educational events and programs (composting systems were offered to community gardens to give residents an option for dropping off food scraps and use finished compost), but the city is also rethinking collection services to make them more efficient and effective.

Solid urban collection is indeed a pain point for many cities, which struggle to assess the best possible frequency and routes to ensure an adequate quality of service (bins to be emptied when and where needed) with cost and operational efficiency.

Here is where Smart Waste solutions can help. IoT-based technologies allow trash bins to be remotely connected and monitored, with data showing the fill level and the date and time of the latest collection, and generating alerts in case of fire, vandalism, or unauthorised bin movements.

By analysing bin-generated data, and correlating it through an intelligent routing software, waste operators can predict when containers will need emptying and dispatch trucks when really needed, or when the city prefers. This improves the quality of collection, generates efficiency and savings, and adds relevant benefits in terms of health, safety, and liveability – even in cities heading towards zero waste.

 

Want to learn more about PE Smart Urban Network and how we help cities and utilities enhance solid waste management? Contact our Smart Waste experts!