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Managing the future

Although the smart waste collection technology industry is still in an early phase, Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled smart bins and sensors are slowly gaining traction globally.

According to a new report by US research company Navigant, the market is expected to grow from US$57.6 million (A$77 million) in 2016 to more than US$223 million (A$300 million) in 2025, with a 16.3 per cent compound annual growth rate.

“Currently, most municipal waste collection operations focus on emptying containers according to predefined schedules,” explains Christina Jung, a Research Associate with Navigant. “This is inevitably inefficient, with half-full bins being emptied, poor use of city assets and unnecessary fleet fuel consumption.”

Jung says the smart waste collection solutions of the future will be able to track waste levels and provide route optimisation as well as operational analytics – providing new opportunities to optimise waste management: “More and more municipalities and waste service managers are realising that
these solutions can help them meet sustainability goals, improve services for residents and reduce operational costs [at the same time].”

She adds, “There is a growing awareness among city leaders of the potential benefits of multi-application approaches to the deployment of smart city infrastructure. At the heart of this transformation is IoT technology that connects a range of intelligent sensors and devices to monitor and automate city operations. Areas where technology is having the greatest impact include street lighting, public safety, traffic systems and waste collection.”

Jung’s observation comes on the back of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecoms company, and Cisco forming a partnership agreement in June 2016 to deploy a digital IoT city platform in Denmark. As part of the initiative, Dublin company SmartBin deployed its sensors to a range of waste and recycling containers that were integrated with the city’s digital platform. In addition, lamp posts and traffic lights were equipped with sensors that are able to send data to a control console at the town hall and allow real time monitoring of waste production.

A similar project took place locally in Australia 2014, when the Sunshine Coast Council partnered with Cisco and Telstra to develop the so-called Smart City Framework, a portfolio of 13 municipal service areas including waste management. Here, Enevo and its Brisbane-based partner, Smarter Technology Solutions, saw the successful initial deployment of Enevo’s smart fill- level sensors.

“Another example of an integrated smart waste collection solutions are solar-powered waste bins equipped with Wi-Fi units,” Jung says. “While many smart city initiatives propose to provide public Wi-Fi hotspots, it can be expensive to lease areas to host the equipment. However, with Wi-Fi- enabled smart bins, cities can run access points by using the solar energy already collected by the bins.”

According to Jung, the town of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates installed ten solar-powered Bigbelly bins with Wi-Fi as early as June 2016 and is planning to deploy several hundreds more of them.

“Yet, despite the successful [early] deployments, there is still limited demand for smart waste collection solutions due to the lack of awareness about cost [recovery] and the effectiveness of the technology.”