Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Idea for More Effective Residential Waste Management

In Saanich the next garbage pick up will be with the new standard bins that they delivered to households in early January.   With this shift to standard sized bins that will be lifted by machine to dump into the trucks there are a few additions that could be done to make waste management cheaper and more efficient.

One the goals in this region is to reduce the amount of landfill waste and the most effective way to get people to reduce their waste is give them a financial incentive.  Up until now there has been no easy and cost effective way to ensure that the people who produce the most waste are charged for that waste.

In the CRD water pricing has been very effective as a way to reduce water use.   With a price for water and not a flat fee per property, there is an incentive to reduce how much water people use.   This same financial incentive could now be done with garbage because of inexpensive technology.  All it would take is the addition of an RFID chip along with a large address label on every bin and a sensor on the truck that can weigh the bin.   I assume the trucks already have GPS on board.  

The RFID chip on the garbage bin would allow the sensor on the lifting mechanism to recognize which bin was being lifted, the weight of the garbage and compost would then logged by residence.   On each municipal utility bill it would now clearly show how much garbage and compost is being produced by the household.  It would now be possible to charge garbage collection based on how much is thrown out.

Charging based on volume is only part of the cost, the very act of having to stop and pick up the bins is a cost as well.   It would only make sense to charge residences based on the number of bins picked up per year.

It is most efficient for the system to only collect bins when they are full but at the moment you get a pick up every two weeks if you need it or not.   The RFID chip would also allow the municipality to charge in part based on how often garbage is picked up and thereby giving people an incentive to only bring out their bins when they are full.   If my bin is not full and it does not need to be picked up, the RFID chip would then record this and my bill would show the weeks when pick ups were not required.

The per pick up charge is one that could be put on the compost bin.   It takes much longer for them to fill up and therefore need fewer pick ups.   By having some charge to the compost pick up those that compost at home would be rewarded.

Reducing the number of partial bins would speed up waste collection and that would save the municipality money.  This alone should be enough to quickly amortize the costs of setting up the program.

Collecting the data would allow the municipality to know what areas produce more waste than the average and therefore where further waste education is most needed.   It should also be possible for the municipality to work out what each garbage route costs to operate.  If denser neighbourhoods have ongoing lower costs to collect waste, those residents should be rewarded with cheaper costs.

The data would collected give us more and detailed information on the waste production habits of the public.  Combining this with census data for neighbourhoods would make it possible to do a detailed analysis of what socio-economic factors impact waste production.

Since this change directly charges back the full costs of waste collection, there is no reason why a household should not be allowed to have as many bins as they would like.

The reason for the large address label on the bin is to ensure no one swaps bins with a neighbour and thereby has them pay for their garbage. 


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