The Smart Waste platform brings IoT and Big Data to the management of waste collection and recycling

The Smart Waste platform brings IoT and Big Data to the management of waste collection and recycling

We usually talk about the percentage of people living in cities around the world and its exponential growth is estimated in the coming years, but we seldom ask ourselves how much waste is generated by those hundreds of millions of urban inhabitants and how they affect the environment waste. In this area, the application of technology also has a lot to say. This is the case of an intelligent waste management platform that helps optimize recovery and recycling, reducing the environmental and economic impact.

Returning to the data, urban centers are responsible for 50% of the global waste generated and causing between 60 and 80% of greenhouse gas emissions. Faced with this panorama, concepts such as circular economy are particularly important. Even more so when cities consume three quarters of natural waste. «All these factors make cities a critical element in the deployment of the circular economy, based on the rule of reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling in a continuous circle,» explains Miguel Ángel González, director of Digital Solutions at Minsait, the digital transformation unit of Indra, responsible for the development of the Smart Waste platform.

In this context comes the project of Minsait and Ecoembes, entity in charge of managing the recovery and recycling of plastic, cans and bricks, and cardboard and paper in Spain. Together they have created the technological platform designed so that any municipality can access it in order to improve the management of their resources and processes. Throughout this first quarter of 2018, pilots are being executed in four management units in Spain to incorporate the solution into day-to-day management and selective waste collection operations.

According to its creators, Smart Waste has been designed following a ‘Top Down Model’ by which the key actors in the process are identified, in this case, the town hall, citizens and companies that are responsible for the collection of packaging by commissioned by local governments. Once the interests of each one are annotated, the indicators that allow measuring the impact that the actions can have for each of these interests are established. «If, for example, one of the interests of the municipality is the provision of the service with minimum quality standards, the indicators that are built are linked to that interest and that is where the technology makes sense», explains Miguel Ángel González.

Data that becomes valuable information for waste management

The project is part of The Circular Lab, the Circular Economy Innovation Center of Ecoembes and the platform is based on ‘Minsait IoT Sofia2’, the IoT solution with Big Data and Cloud capabilities of the company. Centralizes the data obtained from different sources such as sensors, social networks, surveys, censuses and satellites, and converts them into valuable information that responds to the interests identified for each of the actors.

The Big Data and prediction capabilities of the platform allow transforming raw data into knowledge for public managers, who use it for better planning and decision-making when, for example, establishing dynamic collection routes, which can be adapted to the increase or decrease in waste by route or by containers, depending on the time of year or the demographic composition of the area, thanks to the estimates made with the data collected.

«We can know how many kilos of waste are deposited in the containers and combine the data, for example, with the cadastre or the profile of citizens who live 50 or 100 meters around to analyze whether or not more containers are needed or if we must adjust the frequency of the trucks that collect the waste, «says González.

This model also allows monitoring the impact of awareness campaigns with a high level of detail in specific areas or their capacity to support public policies that favor equity. «If you know the profile of the population that lives in each area, you can, for example, make a location of collection containers that favor people with greater mobility problems such as the elderly or disabled,» clarifies Fernando Sanz, Responsible for Innovation in Ecoembes.

Open and interoperable platform

The platform is conceived as an open ecosystem in which any company can provide technological solutions of interest for the collection of containers, since it allows to standardize suppliers to guarantee that the information they integrate in ‘Minsait IoT Sofia2’ is interoperable with the one that already exists on the platform.

Una vez homologado el proveedor, el ayuntamiento es libre de establecer acuerdos con el que considere más adecuado, por criterios precio, cercanía, o experiencia previa. De esta manera, cuando un municipio adquiere una licencia de uso del sistema, puede elegir del catálogo de proveedores la solución que mejor se ajuste a sus necesidades. Este concepto de colaboración permite a los ayuntamientos combinar “lo mejor de cada proveedor o emprendedor para cada escenario”, señala Sanz.

La plataforma está también abierta a otros grupos de interés, como ciudadanos o empresas, con el fin de promover la transparencia y generar información para mejorar el servicio e impulsar la economía local.

Pago por generación de residuos

El pago por generación de residuos es otra de las puertas que se abre con este tipo de plataformas. Este sistema está muy extendido en varios países europeos y permite atribuir a cada usuario un coste acorde con la cantidad real de residuos generados, lo que además de representar un sistema más justo, genera un incentivo entre la ciudadanía para mejorar los niveles de reducción y reciclaje.
Con esta tecnología entra en juego el pago por generación de residuos, que permite atribuir a cada usuario un coste acorde con la cantidad real de residuos generados.
Con esta tecnología entra en juego el pago por generación de residuos, que permite atribuir a cada usuario un coste acorde con la cantidad real de residuos generados.

En este sentido, el responsable de Innovación de Ecoembes destaca la importancia de la tecnología para impulsar este tipo de gestión de residuos. “La plataforma que se está desarrollando resulta clave por las capacidades que aporta para llevar el control y obtener estadísticas de contenedores y vehículos recolectores de residuos, ver el número de contenedores en un lugar determinado, medir el nivel de residuos que tienen dentro y el tipo de materiales que generan los habitantes de una zona, entre otras cosas”.