New binfrastructure

David Burrows looks at how technology is transforming the waste sector.

waste in wifi symbol shape

Imagine a world where self-driving trucks collect your waste only when bins are full – city-wide routes would be optimised, traffic reduced, emissions cut and money saved. Now imagine that you are then sent an instant message with your personal recycling record – including a pat on the back and a council tax discount if you’ve upped your game, or a scolding and a higher bill if you’ve let things slide. And there’s no excuse for contamination, because you can use the smartphone app to scan packaging so you know exactly which bin to use.

This might seem fanciful, but it’s closer to reality than you might think. “The emergence of the internet of things and ‘smartcities’ means that rubbish collections will become automated and more efficient,” noted experts in ‘From Waste to Resource Productivity’, a report published by the Government Office for Science in December 2017. 

It highlighted work being done by Swedish recycling firm Renova and Volvo to develop a robot refuse truck guided by an autonomous drone that automatically collects and empties bins kitted out with sensors. But that’s not the half of it: once data is being collected from bins, the systems become ...

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