How the Internet of Waste Optimizes Waste Collection, Recycling and Minimization

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the amount of non-organic waste worldwide (masks, gloves, disposables, appliances, etc.). However, the development of the Internet of Things, high-speed wireless data transmission and artificial intelligence makes it possible to intensify the collection, sorting and recycling of waste. Among such methods are equipping garbage containers with fill sensors and prompt transmission of this information to public utilities and operating companies; equipping public places with bins and containers that automatically sort waste themselves; AI platforms that analyze in real time the routes for the removal of various types of garbage and places for its processing in order to optimize these routes, etc.

Unnecessary Essentials

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly exacerbated the problem of the accumulation of solid inorganic waste, including tens of thousands of tons of plastic waste. According to WHO, only from March 2020 to November 2021, 87 thousand tons of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, shoe covers, gowns, etc.) were used, the lion’s share of which went to trash cans. In addition, over the same period, 140 million covid tests were used, which WHO estimates an additional 2.6 thousand tons of plastic waste, about 8 billion doses of vaccines were delivered, which gave about 143 tons of waste in the form of used packages, syringes , needles, plastic containers for transportation and storage, etc. Even then, scientists began suggest new methods of dealing with increased volumes of waste through the use of biodegradable plastics, technologies for easier and cheaper plastic recycling, etc.

Recently, researchers are increasingly talking about another technological way to deal with garbage – with the help of a rapidly developing internet of things (Internet of Things, IoT). By 2030, global demand for IoT solutions will be more than $620 billion, having increased by almost 3.5 times over ten years. No wonder what has become appear more and more startups that use IoT developments in tracking, sorting and processing waste, which, according to experts, has already led to the actual emergence of a new industry – Internet of Waste (“Internet of garbage”).

Experts believe that one of the most important ways to use the “internet of garbage” is the timely detection of accumulated garbage and the optimization of routes for its removal. Some companies, such as Turkish Evreka, Danish Waste Hero or Norwegian Sensorita, are already using such technologies in cities in more than 40 countries in Europe, Asia and North America.

  • Garbage containers are equipped with special sensors that, at a certain level of accumulated garbage, transmit information to the public utility or the waste disposal company.
  • Thus, the garbage truck goes to where the containers are already full, and does not waste time and fuel on a detour of the territory along the same standard route, where some containers may still be half empty.
  • The sensors that are equipped with garbage containers transmit data about the location of the container, information about the temperature increase in the event of a garbage fire, and are also protected from shock, shaking, water and high temperature.

Sort, remove, recycle

In addition to the growth in plastic waste, in recent years, the volume of “electronic waste” has increased significantly – mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearable gadgets and other mobile devices, which many people throw away not only after they are out of service, but also after minor breakdowns or even serviceable – after the release of a newer model. For some estimated, in 2022 alone, more than 5 billion mobile phones went into the trash. According to a research company Uswitchin 2022 Norway produces the most e-waste in the world – on average, each inhabitant of this country threw away 26 kg of this or that electronics. In second place with 23.9 kg of e-waste per capita – Great Britainon the third with 23.4 kg – Switzerland. In total, the top 10 countries with the largest volume of discarded electronics include eight European countries (Norway, Great Britain, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, France, Belgium), as well as Australia (5th place), USA (8th place) and Japan (shared 10th with Belgium).

Electronic devices are much more difficult to recycle than many other types of waste.

In addition, the batteries of such devices can decompose and contaminate soil and water with toxic substances. The Internet of Things makes it easier to sort and recycle e-waste, including for the recovery and reuse of non-ferrous metals, semiconductors, batteries, etc. There are special applications, which allow you to track both the place of the nearest processing of specific electronic devices, and send data to a specialized company that electronic waste is located in one place or another. Many manufacturers of electronic devices themselves urge of their users to responsibly dispose of gadgets and enter into partnership agreements with specialized companies, where you can apply for the removal of the device via the Internet. Some manufacturers equip their devices with the battery warning function and ask the user for permission to promptly transfer this information to a partner company that disposes or recycles this model of electronic device.

Smart bins and containers are another way to simplify and speed up the recycling of conventional solid waste.who are on their own sort garbage. Such containers are especially relevant in public places, where packaging from goods and drinks mainly accumulates.

Unlike conventional bins with several holes for different types of garbage – plastic, glass, paper, metal, food waste – these containers are equipped with only one hole. Therefore, a person will not be able to throw, for example, a paper bag into the plastic waste compartment.

Scanners and sensors analyze the discarded item, after which it is sent to the correct compartment. Containers can also be equipped with fill sensors for each of the compartments, transmitting this information to the appropriate service. In this way, utilities will quickly find out that in this container, for example, the paper compartment is full, but the glass compartment is not yet, which saves time for cleaning the compartment and waste disposal.

By data Belgian startup Quppa, in the city of Leuven alone, where this company is located, about 4 million disposable coffee cups are thrown away a year and only 1% of them are completely recycled. The company decided to use the “internet of garbage” to recycle disposable coffee cups and other hot drinks sold in takeaway cafes. In collaboration with local catering companies, it attaches an RFID tag to the cups, which is activated upon sale and then shows the exact location of the discarded cups.

Other startups are helping people reduce food waste. They developed applications, which, after scanning a QR or barcode on the purchased product, remember its expiration date. As the expiration date approaches, the app reminds the owner that the product may soon go bad. Other applications show to users which local stores have discounted products due to an early expiration date. It can also be a cafe where certain types of products, such as pastries, are sold at a significant discount in the late afternoon. In this way, users can save on groceries, and stores and catering establishments can significantly reduce food waste.

Evgeniy Khvostik

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