A common perception of the Waste and Recycling industry is that it is very conservative, utilizing tried-and-true methods with little appetite for change.
The past 20 years have seen tremendous technological advantages in every facet of our lives and in reality how our waste is monitored and collected is no exception. There have been countless improvements, but the following are some of the most notable that are prevalent in almost all levels of hauler operation, from small independents and municipalities to the largest national players.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) is not a new concept, it’s included in nearly everyone’s pocket on our smartphones for example. The application of this technology is very different for Waste Haulers than it is for the individual user trying to find the fastest way to their destination. GPS allows haulers to monitor their fleet activity, driving efficiency on their routes, reducing costs, improving safety, and improving the customer experience.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): Many Waste Haulers have begun to use trucks that run on CNG instead of traditional diesel fuel. CNG is more cost-effective, cleaner burning, and allows trucks to run quieter in their communities. These trucks have dedicated fill stations, but many haulers have begun to construct their own stations on-site. CNG usage will only continue to grow as production capabilities improve, and prices continue to drop.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been around for a number of years, but the Waste industry has only recently begun maximize its use. In most cases, a unique RFID identifier is embedded into a container that, when collected, is registered with equipment on the truck that confirms collection. This data collection allows for a number of learnings, such as residential recycling participation rates, collection verification data, truck route progress, etc. The cost for RFID detection hardware continues to decrease, and its adoption continues to be included in new municipal contracts. This is the new norm and has opened the door to Big Data and analytics into the Waste industry.
All of these items have embedded themselves into the way that Waste Haulers of today operate their business. Efficiency and data collection is more important than ever and Big Data continues to evolve how we look at this growing industry.
So, what’s next? Improvement isn’t going to stop, only accelerate. As we see above, the vast majority of recent advancements are focused on the trucks, monitoring and improving their activity. What about the containers themselves, and the end users that fill them?
The next wave of information is coming from the containers themselves. Smart Sensors, like the ones produced by companies including Enevo, are adding a whole new level of sophistication to the world of Waste information. These sensors are able to provide information on a scale that has never been available before. With the ability to easily monitor and predict fill-level and activity, we can learn about customer habits, provide dynamic real-time information, and make impactful recommendations for service improvements. The opportunities are endless, and the industry is about to take another giant leap forward.