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What Is Smart Waste Management?

The World Bank estimates that waste generation globally will increase from 2.01 billion tonnes (in 2016) to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050. It’s predicted that at least 33% of this waste is mismanaged through open dumping or burning. Addressing this dilemma requires a concerted effort from organisations, governments, and communities alike to improve waste management practices. Smart waste management is a step in the right direction.

How Traditional Waste Management Works

Traditional waste management practices are often inefficient, relying on manual intervention which costs time and money. In this waste management model, organisations operate on a set-schedule system – from cleaners checking bins and making bin liner changes, to rubbish collection dates and waste vehicle transportation routes. For an organisation to access information about their waste, they need to manually weigh bins, record the data, and enter it into their waste reporting systems.

With these processes happening manually and on fixed schedules, rather than on an as-needed-basis, time and resource use become inefficient – leading to unnecessary bin liner changes and labour costs, more waste transportation vehicles on the roads emitting CO2, and extra waste facility processing costs.

What Is Smart Waste Management?

Smart waste management is the use of technology and data to optimise waste management practices – from sorting waste into various streams to collection, transport, disposal, and recycling processes. The word ‘smart’ refers to the use of digital tools such as sensors, GPS, analytics, and automation to monitor and manage waste in a more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective manner. It doesn’t need to mean implementing change everywhere at once though. Consider taking a staged approach to adding ‘smarts’ into your waste management approach.

Sensor technology is at the forefront of making waste management more efficient. It can be used for several purposes – from monitoring bin levels to ensure they are emptied as-needed, to strategic bin placement, and making waste collection schedules and routes more efficient. Smart waste data enables an improved understanding of an organisation’s waste, leading to better resource and cost allocation.

How the Internet of Things Enables Smart Waste Management

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the technology-hardware combination that enables waste management to be smart. IoT is a network of physical items (such as bins and waste vehicles) that are enabled with sensors, software, and connectivity, allowing them to collect and exchange data. Data from connected devices and sensors can then be used to manage waste in close to real-time – whether it be to monitor bin levels, collection schedules, identifying patterns or for predicting required asset maintenance.

At Method Recycling, our IoT solution, InSight, is designed specifically to measure and manage an organisation’s waste output. Sensor devices are placed underneath any 60L Method bin (whether glass, plastics, organics or other waste streams) to collect waste weight data and convert it into meaningful information.

With waste generation data sent automatically to the cloud over a secure cellular network, manual data collection and entry is a thing of the past. The InSight analytics portal provides clear, accurate, and timely waste management data in near-real-time. The portal also makes it easy to report reliably and regularly on the progress of waste diversion. Accurate bin-by-bin data provides a straightforward way to track waste goals, highlight areas for improvement, and measure the impact of workplace waste minimisation initiatives.

Not only does InSight enable efficient waste monitoring, but reliable data is also presented in a user-friendly way with dynamic displays, graphs, and filters, making it easy to dive deep into bin-by-bin data or zoom out to view waste across different teams, stations, buildings or even countries. InSight’s smart waste management system enables waste metrics to be displayed digitally near bin stations, or online, helping to inform and engage employees with waste diversion goals and progress.

Ready to make your waste management smart with InSight?

Cut Costs with Smart Waste Management

Managing waste smartly can lead to significant savings for businesses, particularly in the areas of waste disposal and raw material purchases. According to the Better Buildings Partnership, better waste management delivers a 10% cost saving.

Smart waste technology can help reduce operational costs associated with waste management through the optimisation of resources. Here’s how data collected via bin sensors can make the waste collection process more efficient:

  • Reduced data analysis costs – bin weight sensor technology provides clear, reliable waste data in near-real-time making it easy for an organisation to collect, manage, monitor, and understand its waste generation and diversion. With automated data capture and analysis, organisations can save on overheads related to manual data entry and reporting required by the traditional waste management model.
  • Improved waste separation – with sensors connected to various waste streams (e.g., glass, compost, plastics etc) an organisation can easily see how their different streams are performing, where improvements could be made, or new initiatives can be introduced to cut costs.
  • Fewer raw material purchases – waste stream data can help organisations identify trends in waste disposal. Unnecessary waste such as inbound office supplies in plastic packaging or hard-to-recycle items could be swapped for more sustainable alternatives. Find out how Microsoft’s Perth office discovered fruit dumping via bin data analytics and reassessed their fruit order to reduce waste.
  • Increased diversion rates – with access to more waste streams, workplaces can easily divert waste to landfill by enabling increased recycling, resulting in reduced landfill disposal costs.
  • Bin weight monitoring – near-real-time bin weight data means that bins can be changed as and when needed, rather than at a set schedule, saving on bin liner spend.
  • Reduced servicing – fewer bin changes make the job of cleaners more efficient, saving time and associated labour costs.
  • Optimising waste collection – waste collection can be planned around bin weight data, and collected when bins are at capacity. This leads to pickups happening only when needed but also benefits the other side of the coin by reducing the chance of bin overflow. Logistical efficiencies mean less spending on collection-related labour, fuel and disposal.

How Smart Waste Management Makes Your Business More Sustainable

Implementing a smart waste management system is worth the investment – for your organisation and for the environment. IoT waste technology can help your business achieve its sustainability and waste goals via:

  • Clear reporting – accurate and timely waste data delivers fast feedback on how an organisation is tracking towards its waste minimisation and sustainability goals. Plus, it helps eliminate errors and time spent on manual data entry.
  • Increased staff engagement – sensor enabled bins can encourage employees to participate more in workplace recycling initiatives by providing clear feedback on what can and cannot be recycled. This also reduces contamination of recycling streams, leading to higher diversion rates.
  • Efficient resource use – near-real-time bin weight data enables efficiency in bin liner changes and waste collections, reducing unnecessary plastic going to landfill, and helps waste management companies plan their collection routes more efficiently, saving on fuel.
  • Reduced emissions – waste reduction and improved resource efficiencies lead to reduced carbon emissions. With smart waste data organisations can track their progress toward sustainability targets and requirements, which are now commonplace for many countries and regions.

How Smart Waste Management Benefits Your Bottom Line

Smart waste management can help your business demonstrate that they are an environmentally conscious organisation, which in turn benefits the bottom line.

An IoT waste management solution, such as InSight, not only delivers accurate, timely and detailed waste data to track goals, meet milestones, and measure impact, but this data can also be used toward attaining industry-leading sustainability certifications. Green building certifications show a commitment to waste reduction that benefits both the environment and an organisation’s public image.

Research shows that customers favour brands that put sustainability at the forefront of their business with 61% of UK consumers reporting that sustainability is central to their buying decisions. Employees on the other hand are shown to favour companies who implement sustainable waste management practices and see recycling facilities in their workplace as a sign of being a responsible employer. Having a brand reputation as a socially responsible organisation can be a competitive advantage, motivate and retain current employees, and attract top talent.

Investing in a smart waste management system improves an organisation’s understanding of their waste profile, leading to efficiency in resource allocation, cost-savings, enhanced brand reputation, and a positive impact on the environment.

Want to make your waste management smart with InSight?

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