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The Potential of the Internet of Things in Waste Management

Internet of Things in Waste Management

Experts from Australia’s RMIT University are looking at the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it can be utilised to develop smarter and more effective ways of managing and reducing waste.

The Problem

IoT is a monitoring technology that reportedly enables accurate tracking and collection of real-time data. It can improve problems through the timing of waste collection as well as waste treatment and disposal.

In 2016, the total global waste reached nearly 2 billion tonnes. Unfortunately, it is expected to double to an estimated 4 billion tonnes by 2050 because of consumer-oriented urban population growth.

Growth in population increases consumption and waste. Add to that how managing waste is turning into a greater challenge.

The Solution

The Internet of Things (IoT), for its part, can be used to develop smarter and more effective ways of managing and reducing waste.

IoT can enable automation, through cyber-physical systems, which changes the way waste management takes place.

Some cities are already using a combination of IoT and sensors to operate smart waste management systems.

Songdo in South Korea, for instance, is a purpose-built smart city that uses a combination of IoT and sensors to operate its waste management system.

The city is connected by a truck-free waste management system. Automated waste disposal bins are located throughout the city.

Pneumatic pipes suck waste directly from premises into an underground network of pipes and tunnels.

The system connects to a central waste-processing facility called the “Third Zone Automated Waste Collection Plant”. Waste is automatically sorted and recycled, buried, or burned for energy.

Sustainability planning is critical. This includes investing in public transport systems, creating green public spaces and improving urban planning and waste management.

The scale of the problem of urban waste makes smarter approaches to recycling and resource recovery essential.

Situation in Australia

Australia, with a fast-growing population of about 25.5 million, is struggling with a waste crisis. Its fastest-growing city is Melbourne in Victoria.

The state has doubled the amount of waste it generates in the past 20 years. New South Wales and Queensland are no exceptions.

Infrastructure Victoria has proposed a six-bin rubbish collection system to reduce contamination of recyclable wastes.

Single-use plastic bags have been banned since 1 November 2019, which is part of state government measures to reduce plastic pollution and the amount of waste going to landfill.

It also aims to strengthen Victoria’s recycling industry. Similarly, e-waste is banned from landfill.

Suggestions

Infrastructure Victoria is advising the state government on how to create a strong and sustainable recycling and resource recovery industry.

Its preliminary report proposes several options, which include:

  1. Tackle food waste, which makes up more than a third of household rubbish going to landfill
  2. Push manufacturers to use more recycled products
  3. Reform the landfill levy to create an incentive that will reduce the disposal of waste to landfills and encourage greater re-use and recycling of resources, with funds raised by the levy able to be used to the support recycling and resource recovery sector
  4. Ban single-use plastics

The report also proposes a “waste-to-energy” policy, which will convert food waste to low-emissions electricity.

Moreover, Melbourne and other Australian cities can further develop its waste-management strategy and policy to promote resource efficiency with IoT.

How IoT can help

Having IoT embedded in waste-management systems will improve resource efficiency, tracking and measurement.

In addition, IoT also acts as an accountability mechanism for cities’ waste management.

Using IoT will strengthen recycling industries and specifically enable Australia to be at the forefront of implementing the SDG 2030 agenda.

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