Smart Bins: Making Waste Less Wasteful


Jon Petch, Sales Director at IoT Solutions Group

Though some people may not realise it, a crisis has been brewing in the realm of waste management – a crisis that has reached boiling point in the Tonbridge and Malling area. A recent report has revealed that the local waste management company lacks sufficient drivers to make bin collections. This has had troubling knock-on effects including a suspended recycling service.

The company in question has stated that the pandemic has exacerbated issues around driver training and testing. While Covid-19 is undoubtedly a factor, employment trends across sectors in the past year indicate a lot of job-related turbulence as workers re-evaluate their career choices. It is therefore unlikely that the labour shortage problems faced by waste management companies will disappear overnight. That said, this kind of challenge presents an opportunity for waste management operators to think differently. Fresh, innovative approaches could help them combat staff shortages and thus operate more efficiently.

A tale of two use cases

The value of efficiency in waste management has been neatly illustrated by a study conducted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The research showed that around 80% of the bins collected by waste management companies did not need emptying; the local authority was essentially paying to collect air!

This use case demonstrates the significant opportunities offered by creative changes to waste management - especially as the problems afflicting areas like Pittsburgh are also felt by UK councils. We have been working with BCP Council (Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole) for several years and they currently spend more than £370k per year on refuse collection.

Current practices generally involve rigid collection schedules across all public bins. When we deployed our smart waste management solution with IoT technology, we demonstrated potential savings of over 50%.

How? You may ask. Essentially, we can provide real-time data that enables optimal route planning. Therefore, waste collection teams could avoid bins that did not need emptying and ensure visits to those most in need of emptying.

With these levels of savings, optimal route planning could be the key to addressing the shortage of refuse collection drivers besetting the industry, particularly for councils like Tonbridge and Malling. Not only does this process make operations more efficient, but it helps avoid performance-related financial penalties for waste management companies.

Efficiency, accuracy, safety

Beyond the efficiencies delivered by optimal route planning, our solution also helps operators detect bins that have been left open or overturned. We can also help identify fire risks in bins due to heated objects such as disposable BBQs and unextinguished cigarette butts. Asset destruction by fire is an expensive issue, so being able to provide early identification of this risk presents a powerful force for improved social responsibility.

We have also deployed solutions to help improve the accuracy of recycling reporting in commercial organisations, supporting their environmental objectives. Our solution can also help detect the potential presence of people sheltering in bins – reducing the risk of serious injury or even death when the bin is emptied by a collection truck.

Choosing to think differently in the face of adversity, even in such an established industry, clearly offers numerous and significant benefits in financial, environmental, and social terms.

Future expectations

Data and more importantly, insight, is power. As such, operators need to seek new ways to utilise the available intelligence to drive service improvement, increase safety, and enhance efficiency if they wish to stay ahead of the curve.

As new technologies like IoT present fresh opportunities, waste management contractors will be expected not to charge for collecting air. Local authorities and private organisations will want to benefit from these new ways of thinking.

Operators that don’t adopt new methods and share those savings and improvements with their clients will likely fall behind.

Therefore, these solutions help address new challenges such as labour shortages, but they also represent a competitive edge, should operators wish to grasp the nettle.

If you’d like to understand more about our smart waste management solutions, please visit our Waste Management Solutions page, connect with me on LinkedIn or call me on 07583 022702. I’d love to share details of the case study and understand more about the challenges you’re facing.

BCP Council Smart Bins Case Study

A detailed look at the 50%+ savings proven through a smart waste management pilot on Bournemouth seafront.

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