We are producing more waste than ever before. The average across European Union countries is close to 500 kg per head every year. In Germany, the figure is even higher: over 600 kg waste per head is produced on a yearly basis. Thankfully, many municipalities in Europe are already working on sustainable waste planning and management programs. And more and more citizens are taking the view that these cannot be implemented fast enough.
Waste collection, which is a component of waste management, is an essential service for any city. The current systems can be greatly improved and waste management industries globally are rethinking the different strategies for more efficient waste collection processes. The Internet of Things can help reach those all-important sustainability goals while reducing operational costs. The technology can be used to automate the collection of waste, for example, or to optimize routes for garbage trucks. Some cities have also started to work with various industry partners to provide a better customer experience to their citizens. User-friendly mobile apps can promote quicker delivery of waste management services and even handle bill payments via push notifications.
Innovative waste collection services across Europe
Deutsche Telekom’s Internet of Things network already enables smart waste collection services in several of the company’s markets. In Austria, DT’s subsidiary Magenta Telekom has partnered with waste management provider Saubermacher to introduce a connected rubbish bin scheme which makes waste disposal more efficient. The solution is based on NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) technology. Sensors in the bin can indicate whether or not it needs to be emptied. It also can share safety data by monitoring the temperature inside the bins. The information is transmitted via NB-IoT, which ideally suits the requirements of such a waste collection service. The technology can easily reach the inside of buildings which is particularly important in this case as rubbish bins are often kept in storage rooms. Its low energy consumption and long battery life help save time and cost.
The region of Bochum, Germany, is also smartening up their waste management service. Deutsche Telekom and partner Zolitron are currently equipping 10.000 glass recycling containers with sensors. These can measure the filling level of any given container indirectly through vibration while it‘s being loaded. Artificially intelligent algorithms determine the filling level for each container individually. This information is used to adapt the routes of Bochum’s collection vehicles. A nice added touch: the sensors are powered by a little solar panel which means they do not need any batteries at all.
The Croatian Island of Krk has been another pioneer in smart waste management. It introduced a smart waste service called ‘Eco Island Krk’. 6500 containers across 1400 locations on the island ensure the successful operation of the scheme. 19,500 tons of communal waste is gathered per year, with about two-thirds in the summer season alone. About a third of the waste is already diversified and Krk aims to increase the percentage of sorted waste by 5% every year. DT Group and its partner Eco Mobile ensure a smooth operation of the service. Via IoT technology, Krk can now monitor remotely how full the various containers for plastic, paper or general waste are and optimize collection routes throughout the island.
Better yet: Convert or reduce waste altogether
Of course, smart waste collection is just one of the solutions to better deal with the waste we produce. The waste management industry is also working on ways to encourage citizens to recycle more and to modernize landfill sites. One such modernization project is to convert waste to energy. Certain waste such as agricultural leftovers, food or animal waste, produces biogas which can be converted into energy and used onsite. Other waste materials can be turned into usable products again such as fertilizers, chemicals or oils.
The best way to better manage waste, however, is to start producing less of it. Citizens can play a vital role here. Simple changes in households around the world can have a significant overall impact. Stop using plastic bags, disposable plates, cups and spoons, for example. Start composting. Cancel unnecessary mail. Unless one lives a zero-waste lifestyle, there is always room for improvement when it comes to looking after our planet. And sometimes a climate-friendly lifestyle can also lead to a special reward: a recent example is a radio station who organized a contest for families asking them to live one week as climate-friendly as possible. The prize was a holiday on a car-free island in Northern Germany. So, protecting the environment has all sorts of advantages!