How an IoT waste management solution can improve your business processes

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According to Eurostat, EU countries generated 487 kg of waste per person in 2017. This includes both waste generated by households and by offices. And then we haven’t even talked about costs. The costs of waste management are expected to increase to 501 billion euros in 2020. These numbers leave quite an impression, no? They show it is a pressing issue that we start managing waste in a smarter way. Typically, waste management isn’t associated with IoT, AI, and machine learning. However, smart technologies can create much-needed improvements in waste management. 

If you’re a waste operator, you’re probably well aware of the fact that 50% of your business is about logistics and how you collect, move, and dispose of waste. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how IoT can transform waste containers into connected smart objects. Furthermore, we’ll look at the different elements of an end-to-end waste management solution and some practical use cases. Ultimately, we’ll explain some tangible benefits of using an IoT solution to manage your bins or waste containers.

Why IoT can open new doors in waste management

To make sure we are on the same page, let us quickly define what we mean with waste management throughout this blog post. This article focuses purely on waste management by companies. Moreover, the collection, transportation, disposal or recycling of waste and monitoring of waste equipment. It encompasses all processes and resources for the proper handling of waste materials.

“IoT solutions have the power to transform individual waste containers or bins into a web of smart, connected objects.”

If you think about waste containers and bins, it isn’t something that your brain will automatically associate with IoT. Since a large part of the process of waste collection is a low-tech undertaking. However, IoT solutions have the power to transform individual waste containers or bins into a web of smart, connected objects. And this can be put to good use as the ultimate goal of every waste operator is to produce increasingly efficient operations, cost savings, and productivity gains.

Person monitoring waste management processes on tablet

Waste operators that want to handle waste collection and disposal issues in an optimal way, start to focus their attention on IoT solutions that combine intelligent tracking devices with logistics and data-based platforms. Mounting these devices on waste containers or bins provides you with critical information to optimize waste management processes.

In the next part, we will explain how exactly an IoT waste management solution works and how it can provide you this information.

How IoT can transform your waste containers into smart objects

What elements does an IoT solution for waste management entail? Well, this can vary. In this part, we’ll discuss everything an end-to-end IoT solutions entails. The most obvious is the physically visible part, the waste container tracking device. Depending on your needs, these tracking devices can measure your containers’ fill rate, location, usage, etc. All this gathered data has to be communicated, which leads us to the second element, the communication network.

“The tracking device mounted on the waste container has to function autonomously and use its power wisely.”

Waste containers do not have an internal power source. Besides, they are often widespread across different areas. This means the tracking device mounted on the waste container has to function autonomously and use its power wisely. This is where a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) enters the picture. This type of network is optimized for low-power consumption and enables long-range communication. It fits perfectly with industrial use in the field and connects the tracking device with the cloud.

Sensolus low-power tracking devices for waste management

The cloud is where the information gathered by the tracking devices is transmitted in a secure and reliable way. After the collected data is transmitted to the cloud, you can consult the data in a web or mobile application.

Here the real added-value of an IoT solution for waste management comes into play. In the web or mobile application, you can assess the location and usage of your waste containers from a distance. Typically, in a waste management solution, you’ll have a waste container map. This shows you the status, latest activity, last known location, and all other types of valuable data. If your waste containers often move between different sites, the web or mobile application will also allow you to improve the rotation of your waste containers. Once you’re done analyzing the available data, you can bundle all this information in custom-made reports.

“The web application is where the real added-value of a waste management solution comes into play, as you can assess the location and usage of your waste containers remotely.”

These are the elements that an end-to-end waste management solution typically consists of. To help you understand what practical applications there are of an IoT waste management solution, we’ll dive into some use cases.

Route optimization of waste pick-up trucks

We start with discussing a very common use case, being route optimization of garbage pick-up trucks. Often garbage pick-up trucks stick to predefined routes irrespective of whether the bins are full or not. Increasingly, predefined routes and old fashioned methods of waste collection are replaced with sensor-enabled bins and modern waste management applications.

The positive impact of using these applications means waste collection routes can be optimized. This, in turn, means that fewer miles need to be driven, resulting in less fuel used and thus cost savings. Route optimization of waste pick-up trucks will result in both higher productivity and money that can be spent elsewhere.

Measuring the fill level of bins

This use case can be linked to the route optimization of garbage pick-up trucks. Because of the predefined routes, it is usually not known if a bin or waste container is full once the waste collector arrives. Bins that are equipped with a sensor can collect information on fill level amongst other data. By having insights into the fill level inefficiencies are avoided and logistics operations can be optimized.

Automated categorization of waste

IoT technology can also help to overcome the challenges humans struggle with when it comes to waste. Sorting waste is a task at which most people make errors now and then. The Polish company Bin-e has a solution for this.

They have developed “Smart Waste Bins” capable of identifying and sorting waste in up to four different categories (glass, paper, plastic, and metal). The bins compress the waste and keep track of the fill level for each waste category. Categorizing waste in an intelligent way is an upcoming trend but still needs to be refined to be rolled out on a large scale.

Waste container management at customer sites

So far, we haven’t addressed large waste containers that stay at a customer site for a few weeks. In this use case, geolocation is crucial. The waste containers are moved to a waste collection facility when the customer is done using it. Afterward, they re-enter the stock and finally are moved to a different customer site where the same process repeats itself.

As these waste containers rotate a lot, a waste management solution can help you gain insights into how the containers move and where specifically they are located. Furthermore, equipping your waste containers with tracking devices can give you peace of mind when it comes to the rightful use of your waste containers. Solutions like Sensolus enable you to set-up alerts so you know when something strange arises.

The benefits of using an IoT solution for waste management

Now that you know what different uses of a waste management solution are possible, we’ll look at some tangible benefits of managing your waste in a smart way.

Person ticking boxes

  • Increased efficiency – Know where your waste containers are, how they are used, and how you can optimize their allocation and rotation
  • Cost savings – Route optimization and an optimal allocation of your waste containers will save you fuel costs and allow you to anticipate maintenance and replacement costs
  • Informed decisions – A vast amount of data is collected by an IoT waste management solution, which allows you to turn this data into insights on which you can take action

Why IoT and waste management are a powerful combination

The ultimate goal of IoT solutions in waste management is to create streamlined operations and transparency. Several applications in the real world have shown that IoT and waste management are a powerful combination. Due to the insights you gain from implementing an IoT solution for waste management you cannot only optimize your business processes but also create more sustainable business models. It is about time that we start managing waste in a smarter way, let waste management be smart and no longer wasteful.

If you’re interested in the experience we have at Sensolus with implementing our IoT solution at waste management companies, you can contact us. We are happy to share some more information about our solution for smart waste management.