The Path to Zero Waste: New Data. New Habits.

How image-based container sensors help inform waste haulers, generators and municipalities and improve diversion and recycling
Jason Gates, CEO, Compology

(NOTE: This post was written as a guest blog for ISWA President, Antonis Mavropoulos’s Wasteless Future Blog.)

There’s a shift happening in the way we, as individuals and collectively, think about minimizing our impact on our environment. Financial, political and environmental pressures are putting an increasing emphasis on consumers, businesses and governments to be more efficient, produce less waste and handle the waste we do generate more effectively. We see this across all industries, through increasing commitments to sustainable practices, and across all levels of government, through increasing numbers of environmentally-focused programs and mandates.

As a result, businesses and governments have rightfully turned to technology to aid sustainability and efficiency efforts. When it comes to the waste and recycling industry, we’ve already seen the implementation of robotics to sort recyclable materials, GPS to track truck performance, hand-held tablets for digital data entry and more. Where the industry has lacked technology, until now, is around collection of real-time information on the fullness, location and contents of waste containers. This lack of container information has limited the ability of waste haulers, waste generators and municipalities to operate more efficiently and take on the complex challenges of recycling and diversion efforts. Without a way to gather more information on generator habits and how haulers currently operate, gaining transparency and making impactful decisions for the future remains difficult; fortunately, help has arrived in the form of image-based container sensors.

Collecting The Right Data
For waste and recycling collection, the right data has to do with not only with type, but also quality and frequency. To have the ability to gain actionable insights, knowing what’s happening inside of a dumpster 365 days a year is vital. However, until recently, haulers, city auditors or businesses have had no choice but to physically spot check dumpster locations just a few times per year and manually record their findings. This inefficient and costly strategy results in limited, outdated information that does little to help inform haulers, generators and municipalities on how to provide the right levels of service, improve behavior or set effective policy. Haulers, generators and municipalities have been ready and waiting for affordable, efficient and reliable solutions, and that comes in the form of image-based container sensors.

Compology’s image-based sensors capture accurate and up-to-date container data such as the location, fullness and contents of a container, along with who is using it and when they were last serviced.

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A look at Compology’s image-based sensor and web-based software.
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Compology’s sensor images provide a first-hand look at the contents of any container.

The Value of Image-based Sensors
With abundant sensor-generated data, waste haulers gain valuable insight into their own operational performance and visibility into generator behavior. This information allows haulers to efficiently deliver the right level and type of services, waste generators/businesses to gain transparency into their own disposal habits to inform more effective recycling and diversion practices and meet corporate social responsibility goals, and municipalities to have oversight and transparency into hauler and generator practices to better inform environmentally-focused mandates and improve outreach and education efforts. Here are just a few examples of the positive impact image-based sensors can have:

  • Generators can see which business locations are performing well or poorly with recycling using images to site contamination and fullness levels to see a rise in recycling vs. waste levels. In turn, they can use that insight to target educational outreach, improve practices and measure progress around sustainability goals.
  • Haulers can now modify “just in case” service schedules to provide service “as needed”, while also removing the burden for customers to monitor and call in for service by using fullness measurements to anticipate service needs. Right-sizing service, such as servicing containers when they are full as compared to servicing them on a fixed schedule, reduces the cost of collection by 30% or more. And when it comes to recyclables, images will help identify any contamination prior to pick-up, simplifying the efforts to produce clean, marketable commodities.
  • Municipalities gain transparency into both hauler and generator behavior and the ability to identify specific issues or actions that potentially hinder meeting zero waste and diversion goals. In turn, they can use oversight to guide data-driven mandates and to develop tactics to address identified roadblocks.

(Learn more about the importance of images for transparency and oversight)

(Learn more about smarter waste for the smart city)

(Learn more about how image-based sensors help waste and recycling franchise systems)

Ultimately, Compology’s image-based monitoring solution can not only help improve diversion and recycling practices, but also take the waste and recycling industry to the next level by eliminating inefficiencies by allowing for a shift to an updated service structure based on accurate, real-time container and content information, previously not available. Send us a note to learn more about Compology’s image-based sensors and how to be more efficient, produce less waste or handle the waste you do generate more effectively.

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Where tech meets waste: Our thoughts on the future of the waste industry, the role of big data and the Industrial Internet of Things, and how Compology fits in.

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