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Blog March 2020 Updated October 2023

Spain targets EU recycling goals through separate household waste collections

Intelligent optimisation is contributing to sustainability in Smarter Cities

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Ger Kissane EMEA Sales Hub Manager

Intelligent optimisation is contributing to sustainability in Smarter Cities

More cities in Spain are looking at the possibility of collecting household waste separately or on a door-to-door basis. With this, the country is aiming to meet the EU goals to recycling 50% of the household waste in 2020. “To meet EU targets large municipalities, need to adopt policies to stimulate recycling and to introduce separate waste fraction collections whilst embracing Smart City technologies like fill level sensors”, says Gerard Kissane, Head of Sales & Business Development Spain & Portugal. “Following up on this trend is the introduction of state-of-the-art technologies like intelligent optimisation, which optimises planning and collections to avoid the rapidly increasing vehicles in the streets due to the growing number of containers required for this new kind of waste collection."

Achieve EU recycling goals quite a challenge

Recycling half of the weight of household generated waste by separating materials such as paper, metal, plastic and glass, that is the goal that the EU is aiming for in 2020 according to the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC). In addition, recent amendments to the directive are pushing for targets of 55% diversion by 2025, 60% diversion by 2030 and 65% by 2035.

Due to the complexity of Spain’s federal and local government setup, to achieve the EU targets will be quite a challenge, says Gerard Kissane, Head of Sales & Business Development Spain & Portugal. ‘Spain has 1 federal government, 19 autonomous regions, 50 provinces, and over 8,000 municipalities. Although both national and local municipalities are aware of the need to adhere to and meet the EU directives, it will take a lot of effort and co-operation to meet the EU goals.

The trend in Spain to collect more household derived waste fractions is contributing to the EU goals. “The separate collection of more waste fractions, like the recently introduced compost and food waste in the majority of municipalities, is helping those municipalities move closer to the targets”, Kissane points out.

Intelligent optimisation contributes to the Smart City and sustainability

The downside of stepping up the collection of separate waste streams means more containers and more trucks in the streets to empty them, resulting in more kilometres driven and the additional congestion it causes. “To give themselves the best opportunity to achieve the sustainable goals a lot of Spanish municipalities have turned to the use of optimisation and planning tools to aid in the modelling of the collection routes of household waste”, he emphasises.

Madrid and Barcelona stand out in terms of the push towards sustainability both are vying to be seen as early adopters of new technology and strategies, with both pushing the Smart City principles, but as Kissane clarifies. “With existing contracts in place between the cities and the companies carrying out the services, which are legally binding and strictly adhered to, room for new initiatives must be made”, he adds

“However, there are possibilities when the contracts are being renewed or negotiated and at this juncture, contractors can use the sustainability card as a differentiating factor in the tender process. For instance, introducing intelligent optimisation to lower the environmental impact of household waste collection and with that contributing to sustainability.”

Due to low margins, any unnecessary cost must be avoided

Ongoing contracts sometimes don’t provide these opportunities to adapt to new technologies, according to Kissane. “Municipal contracts typically have long terms, a lot of complexity in terms of the required levels of service and offer contractors low-profit margins. The challenges for contractors vying for new municipal work is to accurately predict the requirements of the contract in the tendering phase to ensure maximum return for the business.”

Where knowledge of the municipal requirements is scarce, without solutions like intelligent optimisation, accurately predicting requirements is difficult, he emphasises. “That is why in many cases contracts are won by the incumbent contractor due to their local knowledge.” After awarding the contract the main challenge is in delivering the requirements dictated in the agreed terms, Kissane mentions.

“This is typically tied to the number of collections, frequency of collection and the handling of exceptions such as spillages and missed collections. Therefore, the main value driver for contractors is to maintain the required level of satisfaction with the council, thus not incurring any unnecessary fines or delays to payments. Since contracts typically are of significant value but of a low margin, any additionally incurred costs must be avoided. In this situation, the use of vehicle tracking and in-cab driver aids directly mapped to the intelligent optimisation is helping contractors meet and exceed those levels of satisfaction.”

AMCS both can make immediate and quick impacts

For municipalities striving to define their approach to tackling climate change and ensuring their place in the circular economy there is a need to demonstrate to their stakeholders, both citizens and elected officials, that they’re investing the right technologies and companies, he says. “As a leading provider of industry best practice business processes and optimisation tools, no other company is better placed like AMCS to help municipalities make decisions that affect lasting environmental and economic change in the cities as they look towards the future whilst solving the problems of today.”

For Southern Europe Kissane believes that AMCS can assist municipalities with this in two ways. ‘First, there are areas where we can make an immediate and quick impact with intelligent optimisation being key. With that, for instance, we can make some inroads, specifically around the areas of modelling for municipal contracts, new waste fraction collections or the use of intelligent optimisation combined with IoT sensors in a Smart City to drive sustainable collections.”

Technologies to contribute to the Smart City

The other area where he believes AMCS can make an impact with municipalities is with the extensive real-world experience that AMCS has acquired throughout its existence in the various markets it serves: “We come to the region with a wealth of knowledge, previous experience and solutions which aid a move to sustainable activities, the circular economy and Smart City type environments.” Part of this may also include PAYT solutions combined with weighing and RFID as championed in other parts of Europe. However, this will involve some education within the market”, according to him. “Hence the need for a longer play.

The household waste collection in Spain is the responsibility of the municipality. The majority of municipalities sub-contract it out. General Waste is normally collected door to door whilst in urban centres there is typically one container per building which collected every day. Other waste fractions like paper and cardboard, plastic and glass waste are typically collected at central communal points on the street or in underground containers. Recently Spain introduced separate compost and food waste collections which, depending on the municipalities is collected door-to-door or at central collection points.

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