Technology and Waste Management

Illustration: Norbert Fuckerer

Illustration: Norbert Fuckerer

It’s no surprise that the Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies are entering the waste and recycling industry. From providing simpler solutions for route optimization and operational analytics to reducing costs, companies across the globe are getting creative when it comes to using technology to better manage waste and recycling.

Waste collection is an essential city service. Ample opportunity exists worldwide for smart technology to increase efficiency and improve the quality of waste collection services. 

Currently, most municipal waste collection operations focus on emptying containers according to predefined schedules. This is inevitably inefficient, with half-full bins being emptied, poor use of city assets and unnecessary fleet fuel consumption.

However, smart waste collection solutions on the market track waste levels and provide route optimization and operational analytics. Municipalities and waste service managers are realizing that these solutions can help them meet sustainability goals (such as zero waste), improve services for residents and reduce operational costs.

Electronic-waste recycling will become as advanced as the products themselves

The major areas where technological tools are being utilized for those purposes include

1. Automated Waste Collection

With the introduction of automated sensors that function to trigger automatic alerts each time a container is filled up and needs to be serviced, technology has impacted the workings of waste management. In fact, some other tools such as advanced disk screens and optical sorters have been introduced to make the sorting process easier and faster.

In addition, the trucks used in the waste collection now run on natural gas and not diesel for operations which are quieter and more cost-effective. Further, logistics software, mobile apps and in-vehicle monitors have made the waste management process simpler while also ensuring that the driver is safe.

2. Improved Rates of Recycling

Currently, waste management companies and also recycling companies are working on improving their techniques and tools. There is a recent development available in single-stream recycling which allows people to dump all their trash in one bin. That has helped to reduce people’s burden of sorting and has also impacted the recycling rate. In addition, it has contributed to the reduction of truck count as well as the emissions.

3. Route Optimization

Route optimization is important in the protection of the environment and the reduction of hazardous emissions and accounts for why companies are going ahead to invest in advanced systems as well as software dedicated to optimization. These companies are now using automated trucks which have already installed robotic arms that function to save effort and time along normal routes. It has made pickups from one point to another quite eco-friendly. The technology is also quite viable financially and also improved energy efficiency.

4. Modernization of Landfill

Through a harness of the power of technology, the waste management industry has succeeded in modernizing garbage dumps. The systematically engineered landfills that adequately comply with relevant regulations ensure a complete protection of health and preservation of the environment. Also, the use of solar panel systems which are integrated together with geomembrane are providing essential backings for production of energy deemed sustainable and also preventing carbon from finding its way back into the environment.

5. Faster Turnaround Periods

Some waste management companies have also begun investing in technology that provides better customer experience to their customers. These companies are investing in the creation of mobile apps that are user-friendly so they can promote quicker delivery of services and even bill payments via push notifications.

6. Conversion of Waste to Energy

This is one of the core ways technology is being used to transform the operations of waste management companies in smart countries. Rather than leaving particular types of waste in the landfill, they can be converted to energy. There are new innovative machinery called digesters for this purpose. Digesters can convert the waste and the produced biogas into energy that can be effectively used onsite. It can be used on different categories of waste such as agricultural leftovers, food, animal waste, among others.

Illustration: Norbert Fuckerer
Sources: Medium - Waste360