waste management

LLGA Winner's Smart Waste Sensors Pilot Beam Hourly Updates in Barcelona

In February 2010 Urbiotica’s Showcase ‘Intelligent Urban Waste Management’ was announced at the Living Labs Global Awards as winner of the opportunity to pilot in Barcelona, specifically in the 22@ Urban Lab area.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql1kHhD0EiI]

Of course the Award was immediately providing a more direct way to access decision-makers within the municipality regarding innovation and procurement of urban services. So we quickly started conversations with all the stakeholders involved in the waste collection service –including the environmental department, the 22@ Urban Lab coordination and also Urbaser, the service company in charge of the waste collection for that area of the city.

Our goal was to use the pilot opportunity to prove that our technology provides an integral solution for significantly improving the waste collection process, both in terms of costs and quality of the service. Our wireless sensor networks –composed of active sensors, communication devices and middleware platforms to handle the data collected- provide real-time information of the fill level of each container so that collection routes can be optimized to save resources  and improve the overall service.

During 2010 we took care of agreements with the different stakeholders involved in the pilot regarding the best locations of the sensor and communication elements, the best installation procedures and the expected preliminary results of the project – for example, how to serve and treat the real-time data collected from the dumpsters. In the end 8 sensors where installed: 2 for plastic dumpsters, 2 for glass, 2 for paper, 1 for generic waste and 1 for organic waste.

Several communication elements were also installed in the corresponding street lamps. The result is that for the past 12 months, these 8 sensorized dumpsters are sending data about their fill level every 1 hour; the data is processed through our middleware and served as useful information directly to the municipality as well as the management system of Urbaser, the company providing the collection service.

The collaboration with the different stakeholders in the pilot has been constructive and fruitful. The results are positive and meet what we had expected initially: our system is now installed and running in a small area of Barcelona and we keep an active reporting with the municipality as well as the company in order to refine the whole process and extract valuable practices, which can be used to extend the solution to larger areas of the city and/or to other cities.


- Irene Compte, Urbiotica

The Living Labs Global Award 2012 is open for submissions. 22@ Barcelona is among 20 global cities calling for solutions to improve the lives of 100 Million citizens.

Composting, New Hampshire

A new green business startup is helping restaurants save money and compost in New England. Inspired by San Francisco's composting mandate---a law which requires residents to compost biodegradable materials such as produce food scraps-- Ryan Bedard recognized the demand for alternative waste disposal services back home in Maine and New Hampshire and founded the company EcoMovement last November. Essentially, EcoMovement provides a curbside composting service to commercial businesses. They haul only their clients' compostable waste, leaving garbage and recycling to the local hauler, Waste Management. They then take those organics to two local facilities, where they are composted, turned into valuable soil amendments and sold to landscapers and farmers. What's particularly novel about the composting startup, is that it allows restaurants to save significantly on waste disposal while minimizing their footprint. Rather than a flat fee, businesses are charged based on the volume of waste they produce. EcoMovement's service costs about 20% less than competing waste management services; and some restaurants report cost savings as high as 75%.

For many restaurant owners in the area, the EcoMovement composting service seems like a no brainer, save money while delivering a greener service to your clients.

National Public Radio featured a lengthy piece on EcoMovement earlier last month. You can find it here.

Restaurants pay based on the amount of waste they produce

EcoMovement hauls only their clients’ compostable waste, leaving garbage and recycling to the local hauler, Waste Management. They then take those organics to two local facilities, where they are composted, turned into valuable soil amendments and sold to landscapers and farmers. Restaurants pay based on the amount of waste they produce Take your compost bucket, have it on line with you, take all of your produce scraps. Cut their costs by at least 75%. Eco-movement.

More Garbage Collection

Here's an addendum to the previous trash post, take a look at this paper co-authored by Hai-Lang Yang of Iowa State University and Robert Innes of the University of Arizona in the Journal of Environmental and Resource Economics in 2007----In an accessible manner, the paper gets at three of the policies that have driven Taiwan's aggressive waste management program, namely, unit-pricing in Taipei, mandatory recycling in Kaohsiung, and a federally mandated plastic bag chare.  Although the paper is slightly outdated, it gives a worthwhile overview of the collective impact of policy initiatives and their impacts on behavior as indicated by the following metrics:  total waste, total recycling, and the recycling of four specific materials, all measured by weight per capita.

Taking out the Trash, the Taiwan Way

Beethoven’s “Für Elise” plays in the background. Neighbours brush shoulders, composting table scraps, separating out plastics into the accompanying recycling truck and ditch their own garbage, bags in hand, into the truck’s basin.

This is a daily scene in Taiwan.  This is not just some fab ‘permaculturist’s’ utopian dream. This is the way you take out the trash.  There is no curb-side checking on this small island.

Taiwan’s musical garbage trucks and aggressive waste management program, however, is more than a novel anecdote to the rest of the world’s sometimes slovenly, certainly more pedestrian systems.  It offers us an honest look at where we all might be heading.

Falling short just behind Monaco, Taiwan is the second most densely populated country in the world:  Some 23 million people crowd out 30,000 square kilometres, placing precious many demands on natural resources, forcing Taiwan’s federal government to be the most eager recyclers in Asia and early adopters in general; cycling through different payment systems and systems of penalization before arriving at the most recent permutation in garbage collection. For better or worse, Taiwan’s policies serve as a test bed or pilot for the rest of us.  They are making the hard decisions that the rest of us have delayed.

I am not the first foreigner to write about garbage collection in Taiwan---American students studying in Taiwan write about learning how to recycle, foreigners chat about the ice cream garbage truck, Taiwanese romanticize it as a community building exercise, a daily rite, an intersection of socio-economic classes; perhaps former community organizer, POTUS should have rallied around the trashcan?

Neither here nor there----For me, it’s like airing your dirty laundry. Taking out the trash says a lot about how you spend your days.

As usual, there’s room for improvement, and, um, novel solutions.  Stay tuned for more specifics on this policy.