In recent years there has been a lot of focus on smart cities and the “Internet of Things”. People quickly turn to sensors to make everything smarter but sensors are one small part of the equation. The waste industry is underwritten by set schedules and the need to pick up light bins to turn a profit, so how does that translate into modern needs of clients who want to decrease heavy traffic in their towns and efficiently collect recyclables to maintain some residual commodity value after considering logistics costs.
You can’t have smart cities with dumb business models. While ever the profit margin of waste service providers is tied to picking up empty bins the circular economy and broader recycling rates will continue to be hamstrung. You simply can’t run a heavy vehicle through cities in traffic to pick up bins that are light and expect the true value of recyclables to fund secondary “circular economies”.
Smart Local Governments
Local Government contracts for litter-bins that agree a set fee per bin serviced are promoting the over servicing of bins and an increase in traffic. The more bins serviced, the higher the revenue. Local governments that are aiming to make their city centres more liveable, promoting street dining and a sense of “place” will be disappointed to have waste trucks frequenting the city centres on schedules designed to pick up light bins.
The business model needs to change to tie efficiency to profitability, to tie reduced emissions and greater recycling rebates to clients with the profitability of the collector.
What will promote the behaviours the community wants?
What are the possible financial drivers to achieve this? Would a hike in the price of fuel for collectors be motivation enough to change the billing model and create a more transparent “price” for services? Would congestion charges for heavy vehicles in our cities do it? What about a rebate to collectors who can demonstrate the intent and delivery of improved yields of efficient collection of recyclables and other waste streams?