life cycle can be roughly presented as production followed by consumption, and
then only waste remains. When we think of digitisation or smart optimisation,
we first think about optimising production and perhaps also consumption.
makes sense to ask about the possible digitalisation of waste collection and
management as well, especially since waste is present, not only during the
production of a product but later when the product itself becomes waste.
billion tonnes of municipal waste generated worldwide each year, we must
explore new waste management options, and the advantage offered by digitalisation
and smart technologies is crucial.
global population growth and rapid urbanisation have led to a massive increase
in waste generation, so the traditional methods of waste collection have become
inefficient, gradually leading to the inefficiency of conventional methods of
waste collection and management.
use, the current waste collection system includes workers travelling by truck
from container to container and emptying them in a predetermined order.
workers cannot know which containers are half empty and so full that they do
not close anymore. On the same day or in the same shift, all containers are
being emptied: those that could still wait and those that should be emptied
to such a system not being efficient, it also leads to excessive use of fuel
and other valuable resources. At this point, we can see that it will be difficult
for a country or a city to call itself sustainable if it does not introduce at
least some solutions of smart waste management.
Various smart solutions to
management focuses on solving the previously mentioned solid waste management
problems using sensors, intelligent monitoring systems, and mobile
one of the most widespread solutions that enable a more efficient waste
collection process. With the help of sensors, we can measure the fill level of
the containers and, in this way, access real-time data in real-time, with the
help of which waste management services always know when to empty containers.
such simple devices as sensors, workers can do their work more efficiently and in
less time. They can optimise the route they take daily and adjust the schedule.
In addition, the waste management companies can receive an immediate warning in
the event of a fire in the containers or displacement of the container, as the
sensors can also include a GPS feature.
Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the Voka Snaga company has installed Bigbelly smart containers at three frequently visited locations in Ljubljana. “With the help of sensors, Voka Snaga will monitor the fullness of the container and adjust the efficient emptying of it accordingly. The container for mixed waste has also a built-in press, which increases the volume for waste disposal from 180 to 800 litres, and the entire system is powered by solar energy” they wrote on their website.
The company added that such containers could reduce collections by 80 per cent on average compared to “traditional” containers. Bigbelly containers are used in more than 1,500 cities in 54 countries. They are used in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Hamburg, and Zagreb, among others.
The Polish company Bin-e has taken it a step further with smart waste bins that have also tackled the problem of recycling. People sometimes don’t bother to find the proper rubbish bin and dispose of the waste where it really belongs, or maybe sometimes they are not even sure, what belongs to which bin, so Bin-e left this responsibility to artificial intelligence.
When a can,
bottle, or chocolate wrapper is placed in a bin (there is only one opening),
the device will identify it and sort it into the correct partition. After
sorting, the machine compresses the waste, and the responsible person can
constantly monitor the fill via a mobile application.
But what if
garbage trucks were removed entirely from the roads? Some cities are
experimenting with installing so-called automated vacuum waste collection
containers or pneumatic containers connected to the landfill or waste
collection centre by a series of underground pneumatic
dumped in such containers travels through tubes to a waste collection facility,
where it can then be sorted or recycled. Such a system eliminates the need for
traditional waste collection, reduces energy costs and increases overall
Envac, a Swedish company that dominates the market for vacuum waste collection systems, says their infrastructure beautifies city streets, limits carbon emissions and traffic congestion caused by garbage trucks, and keeps rats away. With the help of such a system, they can even monitor how much waste is generated by individual households and businesses, which allows local authorities to tax them appropriately.
waste collection systems are now the default infrastructure in 44 cities, from
Seoul to Barcelona. This alternative approach to waste collection could lead
cities to a cleaner and greener future. Still, the question remains whether
budgetary constraints and logistical dilemmas will prevent this technology from
spreading beyond the prosperous cities of Europe and Asia.
more demanding and potentially hazardous waste? Improperly discarded electronic
waste can be harmful to both humans and the environment. Fortunately, you can
get rid of your old electronic devices in an environmentally friendly way at
many companies or organisations. In some places, you will even get a cash
discount in return.
EcoATM, a smart recycling company, has taken the idea of reducing electronic waste a step further by developing a line of smart kiosks that allow you to exchange your device for cash on the spot in most cases.
Let’s move on from collection to actual waste treatment. Are any smart optimisations possible in this area as well? Just as Bin-e containers sort garbage with the help of artificial intelligence, so can robots in recycling centres.
robots are designed to accurately identify and classify recyclable materials,
increasing efficiency and reducing the need for the human factor. This saves
the recycling centre money over time and helps properly sort out materials that
would otherwise end up in the landfill.
After all, digitisation
can also improve waste management indirectly through applications that make it
easier for individuals to recycle. RecycleNation and iRecycle are two such
applications that provide users with information on recycling, collection
centre processes and locations, and their comprehensive lists of materials help
determine which items can be recycled.
As we can
see, with the help of digital technologies, we can deeply intervene in
handling, collecting, and processing everyday waste. As with most other things,
technology is available in this area as well; we just need to add the will and
enthusiasm on our part.
article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European
Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of
digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the
European Parliament. The information
and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union
institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec
Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or
opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information