Industrial IoT for Safe, Smart Waste Management

October 14, 2019

The average person in the US throws out nearly 4.5 pounds of trash a day. That can be a lot for waste management services to keep up with. Fortunately, Industrial IoT can help.

Monitoring Containers with Sensors

Sensors used to equip trash receptacles around a city can detect their fullness. This allows garbage trucks to plan routes only collecting trash cans or dumpsters that need to be emptied instead of stopping at every one. This can reduce stops by 40-80% and saves money in fuel, worker hours and wear on vehicles.

Knowing when garbage containers are full can eliminate the issue of overflowing trash. Beyond being an eye sore, overflowing trash carries health risks. Insects and animals can carry diseases and are attracted to unconfined garbage. Animals and weather can also pick up garbage and carry it to other areas. IoT equipped bins can also send out an alert if it is tipped over due to extreme weather or vandalism. Improperly disposed trash can build up toxins that pollute the air, water and soil. IIoT plays an important role in keeping city streets clean and city inhabitants healthy.

Smart trash bins are also possible through IIoT. These sensor-equipped containers analyze deposited waste and sort it into separate internal bins for glass, plastic, metal and paper recyclables.

Robots & Drones for Waste Management

Similarly, recycling plants are starting to use robots to sort materials more efficiently and reduce human exposure to potential health hazards.

Garbage collection can be a very dangerous job. Garbage, landfill and recycling workers face exposure to dangerous chemicals, needles and airborne contaminants. Forklifts, trucks and material bales put workers at risk of being struck, crushed or run over. Solid waste collection is the fifth deadliest job in the US, with fatal injuries on the rise. The increased use of IIoT and automation in the waste management industry can help save worker lives.

In landfills, drones are helping to mitigate risks through remote monitoring. Ordinarily, an employee would physically walk the landfill and look for erosion, swelling, low soil coverage, standing water and escaping gas. This process can take days or even weeks for an individual to complete (depending on landfill size), and even then some issues can be overlooked. With a drone, the process is more accurate with 3D and thermal imaging and takes only a few hours. Drones are also able to easily map areas difficult for workers to reach on foot.

Drone mapping allows management to be alerted to issues sooner, saves an employee from completing the dangerous work on foot and is cheaper in labor costs. Chongqing, China, is using drones to burn trash from powerlines. This saves time, the cost of a temporary power outage and the risk of having human workers climb to clear the garbage themselves.

Dubai liked its landfill monitoring drones so much, it started testing them for use at campsites and beaches to catch people littering. Perhaps in the future it won’t be strange to see drones at city parks picking up trash and monitoring for violators. IIoT does the job of keeping garbage contained and making environments safer for residential citizens and solid waste collection workers.