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15 Oct 2020

Innovative technology contributes to reshaping and optimising household waste collection

AMCS Intelligent Optimisation enables smart waste collection based on forecasting algorithms and Internet of Things

Households waste collectors can boost both productivity and efficiency by using innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things, smart sensors and forecasting algorithms. This is evident from a webinar presented by Intelligent Optimisation Solution Advisor Rogier de Klein during the eREC virtual tradeshow.

Practice shows that these state-of-the-art technologies can lead to staggering results, like an increase of the filling degrees up to 80-90% and a rise of the collected volume per hour of up to 50%. We have also seen a 25% reduction in mileage which for a great part contributed to the sustainable goals of waste collectors.”

Centre stage in this modern waste collection model is underground containers where large volumes of waste for multiple households are collected. Industry 4.0 technologies, such as fill level technology, provides the possibility to empty them efficiently while at the same time increasing sustainability, lowering the environmental impact and enrolling smart city concepts and tech.

With these innovative solutions come challenges, this is apparent from Rogier’s explanation. ”Questions are arising like where to place the underground containers, how to determine when a container is full and when to empty the container in order to make the collections as efficient as possible?” To answer those questions, during the webinar he thoroughly and step by step explains how to tackle these challenges. 

Simulating container placements and determining filing degrees

To know where to place the underground containers requires a very structured process in which their location is simulated based on an enormous quantity of data. As examples, he mentions the underground public facilities that can limit the placement of underground containers, the households per area and the municipality’s information about where the households are located.

“Through multiple settings, we can run various scenarios with different sets of parameters, like the distance from the households to the containers and the number of households that would be served by a container. As a result of this impressive calculation, the system generates the locations of the containers with the best way to meet all the set parameters and requirements.”

The next step is to figure out how to measure the filling degrees of the container. For that, different technologies are used. When asked, Rogier first mentions access control. “The valve of the container only opens after the identification card is presented. The filling degree of the container is then based on the number of valve openings. The second rather new technology which is used, are volume sensors with in-built IoT, the Internet of Things. The ultrasonic sensors measure the volume of the waste in the container and frequently exchange that information with the back office systems. The third technology used is measuring the weight on the truck while collecting the container.”

When to empty the containers?

Logically after answering the questions where to place containers and how to measure filling degrees it is time to determine when to empty the containers. This exercise is again based on a very structured approach and process. Rogier de Klein: “The most effective way is to use historical data and based on that, recognise a typical pattern for a container in which it fills up, this allows us to cater for seasonal or weekly volume spikes.”

The inbuilt technologies, access control systems or volume sensors, after that, indicate how much waste is in the container at a specific moment. This is then used to determine when a container should be emptied. Based on this information, a collection order is created automatically. “To actually plan the emptying of containers, ‘must do’ and ‘can do’ orders are auto-generated”, he says. 

Automatically optimise collection route

The auto-generated orders are automatically fed into the optimisation engine to optimise the collection routes. The solution itself automatically creates optimised routes. “There is no need to interact with the system to get the planning done”, Rogier says. “The interface shows the results, like how much a vehicle is utilised, how many stops there are on the route, how long the route will take and how much waste will be collected.” 

After planning and optimising the route the system also automatically sends the route list to the in-cab device of the driver which on a map shows the collection stops for the driver, including the details. “If the driver can’t execute the order, for instance, in a case where the collection location is blocked, she or he can make a picture which is automatically linked to the correct order.

During the collection, the route is available for the planning with ‘drag and drop’, providing the possibility to make changes if necessary. Also routes can be re-assigned to drivers, for instance, if one of them is not available. “Since the core of the solution is automatic planning this is mainly for managing exceptions,” he emphasises. “One of the other standard functionalities is to very quickly and easily add ad-hoc orders, for instance when there is a complaint about an overflowing container. The route to which the order is added to is instantly re-optimised by the system and sent to the driver.” 

Customer cases and results 

The smart solution has proven itself several times, proven by the examples of the organisations using the solution to empty underground containers. In the webinar, Rogier presented two of them: Twente Milieu and Omrin.

Omrin collects household waste in 18 municipalities for 207,000 households. The results are staggering. For instance, the average filling degrees at collection went up from 60% to over 80%. Also, the productivity significantly improved: more containers are emptied without the need for additional collection trucks. Furthermore, customer service is improved and there is a reduction in mileage, stops, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Using this state-of-the-art technology to empty underground containers is part of a broader program of Omrin to increase sustainability, according to Rogier. “And they did a great job. As a result of their efforts, in 2019 Omrin was awarded the most sustainable company in The Netherlands.”

Also, Twente Milieu is a record holder. The organisation was globally the first to dynamically collect underground household waste and currently is covering 6 municipalities operating 1,400 underground containers. The results, compared to fixed collection patterns are remarkable. For instance, the average filling degrees at collection went up from 50% to over 80%. Additionally, the volume collected per hour rose by almost 50%, while mileage was reduced with more than 25% and orders for new collection trucks cancelled. “And also of great importance, the service was significantly improved”, Rogier says. “Twente Milieu was able to reduce the number of complaints of overflowing containers to zero while at the same time boosting productivity and efficiency with these quite impressive figures.”