Think Smart About Facility Waste

IoT connected devices can help facility management redefine waste management protocols.

By Keith Woodward
From the February 2020 Issue

Since the inception of organized efforts to deal with the governance of waste collection and disposal, so-called “waste management” has consistently followed the same business model: routinely collecting garbage on a fixed schedule. However, the nature of this system creates plenty of inefficiencies. To start, waste volumes are not constant. Fluctuating volumes can lead to half-full containers or compactors being emptied (or vice-versa), overflowing containers that are not yet scheduled for pickup. Given today’s collection methods commonly applied to waste management, these can be resource-intensive, inefficient (and thereby costly) processes.

Managing Waste
This waste receptacle is connected to a smart sensor (at right) that serves to automate the process. (Photo: OnePlus Systems)

Coupled with these flawed methods, today’s operating environment has become more complex. Characterized by urbanization, increasing regulations, and growing concerns on sustainability, many organizations are turning to waste diversion efforts, which, by its very nature, is complex. For example, consider the complexity involved in a large-scale recycling program. Within rising volumes, we are expected to divert some amount of that waste, based on its source or stream, into different places.

Given these challenges, the pervasive thinking around waste management needs to be reimagined.

A New Era Of Managing Waste

Advancing technology provides a pathway to usher in a new age of the Internet of Trash™. Like any number of other industries, companies are beginning to take advantage of industry 4.0 and joining the “smart” revolution. The ability to turn almost anything—even a garbage receptacle—into a piece of “smart” technology affords opportunities to solve problems that plague waste management. These mechanisms then form a network of information that streamlines waste management into an efficient, money-saving process, which works something like this…

Smart sensors are deployed into waste collection units such as compactors, dumpsters, or closed containers (e.g, for liquid oil). These types of sensors transmit data from the device into a cloud-based platform that uses algorithms to correlate the data with fullness—which in many cases can be multi-dimensional. Fullness can be based on a variety of conditions such as waste stream, weight, service level agreement, or even local regulations. The smart devices and software will factor in these conditions to trigger optimal fullness notifications. When fullness levels are met, the system notifies whomever is responsible for pickup. Meanwhile, data is stored and can be analyzed to identify trends, while also developing predictive insights into the overall waste operation. This system can be used across a single site or an entire waste fleet across many locations.

And this is where benefits begin to stack up. First, it establishes a new model; waste monitoring “as-a-service.” You may be familiar with the term SaaS—software as a service—that has become ever-present in recent years. “As a service” generally refers to products, tools, and technologies delivered as a service through the cloud and/or internet. The nature of “as a service” is convenience and cost savings—driven through automation. Implementing waste monitoring-as-a-service, organizations can automate the waste management process and trigger pickups when a container is ready. It avoids being hauled too early or too late, fines for overages, and potential service disruptions. This also creates savings and efficiencies gained by eliminating manual tasks. Automating the process removes the burden of sending out someone on staff to check the status of waste receptacles and compactors. Welcome to the new adage, “never send a human to do the job of a smart device.”

Additional benefits to smart waste technology include insights into potential downtime and preventive maintenance.

If your organization seeks technologies to improve control and increase efficiencies—why not explore a new approach to better manage waste? Smart waste monitoring provides the automation and insights to increase efficiencies, reduce environmental impact, and mitigate service disruptions.

waste managementWoodward has over 20 years of experience in emerging start-up and established high technology companies. Currently, he is the EVP of marketing at OnePlus Systems, a company offering waste management solutions with data and insights to increase efficiencies, mitigate risk, and reduce environmental impact.

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