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Time to take a measured approach to waste collection

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For some time we have realized the potential commercial benefits of on-board weighing, particularly when combined with either a radio-frequency identification (RFID) or GPS matching to associate data with a specific customer or container, says Ken Tierney, product owner of AMCS, supplier of smart resource software and vehicle technology for the resource industry.

The data provided enables operators to produce a profit and loss statement (P&L) for an individual customer. This supports flexible pricing structures, which help to ensure the customer is paying the right amount for the waste they produce.

In turn, this will help to maintain profitability and eliminate the issues associated with blanket price increases, which can leave some customers with ‘inflated’ prices and leave them vulnerable to competitors. It also enables operators to implement initiatives to increase recycling and support behavioral change such as reward schemes or even pay-by-weight.

There are also a number of operational benefits, which enable fleet performance to be optimized, prevent overloading and improve safety by preventing heavy bins from being lifted. From a materials perspective, this equipment can be used to compile data on recycling performance, understand material volumes, and address areas of high contamination or poor performance. It can also prevent unauthorized lifts or the servicing of customers ‘on stop’.

Historical gap 

It is true to say that historically there was a fairly significant gap between the capability of on-board weighing equipment and the benefits we were told it would be able to deliver. Many systems simply were not robust enough to deal with the rigors of a demanding operational environment and therefore attracted high R&M costs. Those systems that were capable of delivering consistent data (and conformed to EU standards) were comparatively expensive and therefore required a long period to realize a return on investment.

In recent times, however, we have seen a number of developments in on-board weighing systems that have made them both more practical and affordable. The result is that systems are available for use on most vehicle and lift types including split bin lifts, trade bin lifts, FEL vehicles.

Key developments 

One of the most significant developments is that vehicle manufacturers are now supplying vehicles with lifting gear that is already prepared for the installation of weighing equipment. This dramatically reduces the costs associated with retrofitting kits to older vehicles as no additional fabrication is required. It also reduces the amount of time that vehicles need to be off the road, which was always a major consideration.

The technology of the weighing systems themselves has also improved. Historically systems required a lot of wiring and connections as each element was individually installed. This made installation and calibration a time-consuming and ultimately expensive business. Modern systems have greatly improved interfaces with lifter controls cutting the number of sensors and signals required. This makes fitting easier, reduces the component costs, and minimizes the potential points of failure, improving reliability.

Systems approved to MID 204/22/EC (which can be certified to class Y(a) & Y(b)) are legal for trade and enable operators to charge customers by weight. Certified weighing such as AMCS’ VDH system can help drive incentives like ‘weigh more pay more’ to encourage customers to reduce the amount of waste they produce. They also ensure that you are being paid for all the waste collected rather than relying on fixed pricing structures, based on container size for example, where customers with heavy bins may not be profitable.

Mobile technology 

The development of mobile technology also presents an opportunity to improve the affordability and flexibility of systems. Systems that would previously have been wired to onboard computers (OBCs) can now connect to tablets and other mobile devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, for transmission to the back-office solution.

The use of weighing technology also no longer needs to impact the operational efficiency of the vehicle. The development of dynamic weighing systems removes the need to stop the lifter to gain an accurate weight so there is no impact on collection efficiency as the lifter cycle time is not impacted by the addition of a weighing system, as would be the case for older static weighing systems. Each lifter is installed with a weighing load cell enabling two different containers to be weighed independently and simultaneously.

This improved performance and affordability mean that the benefits of on-board weighing can now be realized by all operators, irrespective of size, enabling them to both improve profitability and better manage the material they manage.

Tierney, K. (2016), ‘Time to take a measured approach to waste collection’, Recycling & Waste World. Available from: http://www.recyclingwasteworld.co.uk

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