Living in a clean, healthy and safe city is fundamental for most people around the world. Essential services such as waste management are taken for granted but when something goes wrong, waste quickly turns into a highly visible issue and emotive subject.
Pre-pandemic data stated that in Europe each person produces nearly half a ton of municipal waste per year, which means that every week more than 20 kg of municipal waste is generated per household. Preliminary reports from the US show that Covid-19 saw commercial waste decrease about 16 percent, while residential waste increased up to 25 percent in most cities.
This posed serious challenges for the proper treatment of waste: preventing distortions in waste management, including efficient collection and recycling, is crucial for public health and safety, as well as for the environment. Waste operators are working hard to ensure quality of service and at the same time keep costs under control.
“Most cities used to have a reactive approach to dealing with waste management, thus investing only in light of emergency situations, or when pushed by regulatory compliance issues. Increasingly asked to contribute to recycling targets and the circular economy, cities are now becoming proactive and looking at waste management not as an expenditure item, but as an opportunity to improve the quality of urban life,” says Gianni Minetti, CEO at Paradox Engineering.
What are typical pain points of municipal waste management?
Waste collection typically accounts for 10 to 25 percent of a municipality’s budget, and it represents high costs and poor performance almost everywhere. Independent studies reveal that 15 percent of bins are generally over-full, increasing health and environmental risks, and making town centres and districts ugly.
Cities tend to solve this by increasing the frequency of collection. Consequently, bins are emptied when they are only 40 percent full, so waste collection costs rocket. Further, it is difficult to monitor bins in a timely way, including replacing containers that happen to be vandalised or moved without authorisation.
How can IoT-based solutions help?
Smart waste solutions leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) technologies allow trash bins to be remotely connected and monitored, with data showing the fill level and the date and time of the latest waste collection, and generating alerts in case of fire, vandalism or unauthorised bin movements.
“Data is key for making any smart decision. 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 waste collection, generates efficiency and savings, and adds relevant benefits in terms of health, safety and liveability,” explains Minetti.
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