Albury and Wodonga Council’s Imogen Schifferle details her experience working with and being supported by Smartsensor Technologies over the past two years.
While the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga are separated geographically by the Murray River and politically by a state border, the region has developed a collaborative approach to waste and resource recovery.
After it was estimated that the region’s landfills would be at capacity by 2050, Albury City Council and the City of Wodonga teamed up with Federation Council, the Shires of Towong, Greater Hume Indigo and Alpine Shire Councils to launch Halve Waste. As the names suggests, the initiative has a key focus – reducing the amount of waste going to landfill by 50 per cent.
According to Imogen Schifferle, Regional Partnerships Innovation Coordinator Albury and Wodonga City Councils, the program has reduced general waste entering the region’s landfill by 48 per cent since 2010.
“The next step is to become more intuitive with commercial and retail waste patterns to better predict events that cause increased waste and the types of waste our city produces,” Schifferle says.
“We want to be empowered by data to drive new initiatives that reduce general waste and single use plastics going into our landfill.”
As part of this data-driven approach, Albury and Wodonga have developed a collaborative working relationship with end-to-end Internet of Things solutions provider Smartsensor Technologies.
The partnership began in June 2019 when Smartsensor Technologies installed a Bigbelly Duo General Waste and Recycling Station for the councils.
Following the success of the first installation, an additional station was deployed in May 2020, funded by the Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation.
In February this year, the councils decided to further expand their smart waste fleet, with Smartsensor Technologies managing the installation of 50 additional bin sensors and 24 temperature sensors.
Leon Hayes, Managing Director of Smartsensor Technologies, says Albury City Council and the City of Wodonga’s commitment to making their respective cities smart through the adoption of smart waste management solutions is a northern star that not only regional Australia but also metropolitan cities across Australia can look to in how to drive operational efficiency in waste collection.
Albury City Council collaborates with six neighbouring councils and shires as the centre of waste management for the region. The collaboration is focused on waste education and waste reduction coming from residences across the area.
The Albury Waste Management Centre manages household waste and recycling from the six neighbouring councils and provides drive through capability for the community to drop off all other kinds of household and hazardous waste seven days a week. The site is also home to a state-of-the-art waste education facility and an upcycle/recycle shop.
“Our public waste practice was pre-defined by routes based on historic planning and has proved not to be efficient for council and in need of review,” Schifferle says.
She adds that one of the key challenges for the region is working to reduce waste in its public bins, while improving service delivery for the community.
“AlburyCity also understands the role that waste has to play in affecting our micro city climate and our macro regional climate. However, to what extent was previously unknown, we sought to uncover the facts to drive change,” Schifferle says.
As such, the three key motivations behind installing Smartsensor Technologies’ smart waste solution were: reducing waste overflow in public general waste bins, defining new operational efficiencies based on data informed decision making, and reducing the region’s impact on the climate through monitoring emissions from waste.
Schifferle explains that deployment locations were chosen to build a fringe and centre network.
“Without having the equity to deploy to all bin locations in the first phase of this project, internal workshopping and consultation resulted in locations that would cast a ‘data net’ over our cities’ waste bins,” she says.
“The sensors are concentrated in part on single high-use bins that are used as the anchor for pre-set routes. By enabling these locations, we are better able to plan for daily routes based on usage patterns off our anchor points.”
Schifferle adds that Smartsensor Technologies’ solution stood out from the wider market due to the company’s specialisation in waste management and climate change.
“The vendor selection is vast in data collecting sensor-based solutions, however Smartsensor Technologies’ specialised approach to waste management solutions demonstrated that the resulting quality of infrastructure and systems will be focused and customised to council’s needs,” she says.
DRIVEN BY DATA
Smartsensor Technologies’ SmartWaste sensor is a world leading smart waste sensor. Able to be connected to NB-IoT, Cat1, LoRaWAN, and SigFox networks, the SmartWaste sensor is a turnkey managed smart asset. Every SmartWaste sensor comes pre-configured and ready to optimise waste management immediately.
Deploying smart waste networks in cities allows them to take advantage of dynamic routing, planned collections and most impactfully, predictive collection optimisation. Smartsensor Technologies’ SmartWaste sensor is used to collect valuable data to address urban, economic and sustainability challenges, while also detecting incidents and improving the health and safety of communities.
Schifferle explains that she has been impressed with the quality of the sensors themselves, as well as the depths of reporting capability.
Regarding waste data, she highlights the ability to understand volumes of collections on average, which allows council to build a greater predictability model for its landfill sites and a more sustainable waste management model.
“Highly valuable waste data also comes from the delineation of waste, being general or recycling. It’s vital to be able to see the trends change in correlation with education initiatives,” Schifferle says.
Since implementing Smartsensor Technologies’ solution the region’s efficiencies have improved and less collections are occurring at low fullness levels, allowing resources to be redirected to other duties.
“Our waste management team are part of a wider horticulturalist team. We can mobilise resources to focus on the impacts of climate on the fauna in our CDB,” Schifferle says.
“It has also allowed these teams to draw a connection to the impact waste has on our environment purely through data.
“It has improved service delivery to our community through increased efficiencies. The data is also allowing us to seek opportunities for new funding for growing our waste management program.”
Looking to the future, Schifferle says Albury and Wodonga plan to grow their waste and climate sensor network to ensure all bins in the CBD are a data collection point, and that the greater urban communities are supported through new waste management technologies funded by council’s informed position on required waste management.
“The importance of waste management in relation to achieving our net zero 2050 target is paramount,” she says.
“Local government areas can make a huge difference towards achieving this target through data benchmarking their waste management processes, allowing them to educate their communities and local businesses on the part they can play in reducing their impact on the regional Australian climate.”