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03 Apr 2019

How best-in-class waste management organisations save their piece of the planet

Ken Tierney - Product Manager

Vehicle Technology

We should all pay attention to what Sweden is doing in terms of waste management. Rather than adapt to the crisis of climate change and greenhouse gases, they’ve revolutionised what’s possible. In the process, they’ve turned high-cost waste management into a money-making venture.

They recycle nearly 100% of waste, even importing trash, which generates $ 100 million USD, reports Blue Ocean Strategy. The reason: they’ve replaced fossil fuels with trash to heat homes and power busses, just to name a few applications.

The Netherlands is not too far behind Sweden in their efforts, recycling around 79% of waste last year, while 19% was used for recovering energy.

Playing an important role in all of this is vehicle technology. For instance, vehicle technology, which can lower your own carbon footprint. With on-board computers and in-cab solutions, an organisation can become so efficient that they reduced costs per bin lift by 15% or maybe more, depending on the individual case.

The results being achieved in Nordic countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands underscore the importance of digitisation and automation, the very elements of vehicle technology. Here’s a closer look at some of these technologies. 

The value of RFID: an overview
Consider how RFID works. By connecting objects to the internet so that they can be tracked, waste management companies can collect data on those objects, thereby creating business value. This works hand in hand in places where households are billed for collections, not just in Sweden, but Norway, Ireland, and some areas of the U.S. and UK, to give a few examples.

Initially RFID was seen purely as a way to work more efficiently. It still is, but now it’s used more and more to track containers and offer Proof of Service. The RFID tag, which contains a unique serial number, is either attached or embedded into the waste bin of each household. On the waste collection vehicle is an RFID reader and antenna, connected to a host controller. The tag is read as the waste bin is emptied. The data collected includes a date/time stamp, GPS co-ordinate, type of container, its weight and household information, which provides proof of when the bins were collected.

Better customer service and more recycling
Data also provides the customer with tracking and collection history. If the customer has a problem, that data can provide the answers, resolving the situation.  This data is also valuable to those on a Pay-as-you-Throw (PAYT) system. The cost of the customer’s waste collection isn’t hidden in taxes. It’s a bill, much like utilities. The customer can see what the cost is, and act accordingly to reduce that cost. The way to do that is to recycle and throw away less. Less waste equals lower bills.

Improved efficiency
The data gathered also monitors some aspects of routing, such as route progress, when a route has been missed, and driver performance. This information gives insight into operations, revealing any patterns or situations that need addressing. The result can help form strategies to improve productivity and pinpoint efficiency gains, stopping revenue leakage, as well as reduce the number of vehicles, driven kilometres and CO2 emissions. Information is also more reliable, and errors by manual data entry are eliminated.

Increased return on investment
Data collection doesn’t only lower costs, however. It can create a revenue stream. RFID allows for PAYT or pay by weight, both of which can generate revenue. With PAYT, households purchase stickers or tags to place on their waste containers for collection.  With pay by weight, the increased revenue comes from higher-income households. Higher earners have more disposable income to purchase goods. Those goods are in packaging that needs to be disposed of, adding to the weight of the household’s waste.

Also, automatic and reliable recycling-bin identification enables materials to be properly processed – providing another efficiency gain – and optimising return on investment.

What you need to consider
Thus, the increasing pressure to act environmentally responsibly also opens up possibilities to improve efficiencies, boost revenue, and raise customer satisfaction. You have everything to gain. The question is how you do it. At AMCS we work with best-in-class waste management organisations across the world. Among the technologies offered, RFID is a must – but what about other vehicle technologies?

One possibility is AMCS certified Vehicle Data Hub (VDH) for pay-by-weight operations and Mobile Workforce, the on-board computer and in-cab tablet solution used by many of our customers around the world.

Together, these give you the maximum benefits of vehicle technologies. VDH provides RFID, GPS, and weighing. Another useful feature is that it can handle more than RFID reading, but also I/O signals and CAN-bus data. The vehicle records the data to give you a complete view of your fleet operations. This is actionable data, of course, which optimises the efficiency of your entire fleet. With Mobile Workforce, you can digitally update schedules, access customer information, get real-time addition of ad hoc orders, and intelligent turn-by-turn navigation.

These vehicle technologies let you spot revenue leakage and stop it.  How valuable are they? You can get a return on investment within three to six months. (And take note, going paperless also allows you to lessen your own environmental impact.)

While the financial benefits make vehicle technologies smart from a business point of view, we should never forget their true value: to help make our place in this world more sustainable. No matter what perspective or industry you come from when looking at digitalisation and technologies, we have to realise that it’s not convenient or nice-to-have. It’s are a must if we’re to make a real difference in the planet’s survival.

Are you interested in learning more about what your company can do to reduce your carbon footprint, while also optimising your processes? Read our blog on digitalisation in route planning and optimisation.