he technology uses predictive ‘fill-level’ sensor technology, monitoring how fast the bin is filling and providing an alert when the bin needs emptying. This will be deployed into litter bins on parks, streets and open spaces, in a bid to reduce overflowing litter bins and manage the bin collections as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The technology, provided by REEN (reen.com), was initially trialled in 200 litter bins on streets – the bins which were part of this trial were in areas where the routine cleansing was once every few weeks, so relied on an enhanced collection. The trial result dramatically reduced the number of overflowing bin complaints, and also transformed the efficiency of the collection rounds.
The collection rounds saw some bins being emptied more frequently than before the sensors were installed – impacting the number of overflowing bins the local community were seeing regularly full and overflowing. Also, some bins are now emptied less frequently than before, suggesting that prior to a sensor being installed, the teams were arriving to these bins before they had reached full capacity, an unnecessary trip at that time. By cutting out these unnecessary trips and emptying bins only when they were needed, the Council reduced the number of visits to bins by 53%.
Working this way and the result of the trial was a transformation for the services. Prior to the technology, every litter bin was emptied as part of the scheduled routine area cleanse, which varies across the City and is determined by the rate the area falls below the required standard of cleanliness. This still happens. But outside of the routine cleansing, the bins were emptied based on team knowledge or reoccurring complaints, and was a manual, paper schedule. This was essentially a list, where the operatives would work from bin one, to bin two, to three, until they reached the end and restarted again.
This created a problem - until you arrived to each of the bins, you had no way of knowing if the bin was full, overflowing, or only half full. The technology has moved the authority away from this way of working. This also allows for a route to be fully optimised, sorting the order each bin is to be emptied and the route the operatives take from site to site. This route optimisation and cutting out unnecessary trips has a positive environmental impact, decreasing the carbon footprint.
This new way of working has improved operations and allowing for an efficient workload has freed up capacity to carry out other work. Derby City Council anticipate that as the technology is expanded further, the same team will be able to maintain additional sensor bins, doing ‘more with the same’ and increasing the efficiency of the service further.
Overall, this digital solution has enabled a smarter, leaner way of working. The future capabilities of the technology continues, with the ability to make more intelligence led decisions – such as helping to determine if an area requires an additional bin or a double capacity bin to reduce littering. When additional bin requests are received, a temporary sensor bins can be located to assess the fill level and determine if a bin is required. On the reverse, this also allows a review of the current ‘binfrastructure’ and use the system to see if any bins are not being used. This will help to decide where bins can be removed or relocated, driving towards having the ‘right bin in the right place’.
Piers Barron, from technology provider, REEN, said, “Technology within the waste management industry is really developing quickly. Used in the right way, it can add enormous value in terms of efficiency and sustainability, as well as significant cost savings.
“It was a pleasure to work with Derby City Council, and we were delighted to see the technology deliver real, tangible benefits. We’re looking forward to helping the Council drive even further waste management efficiencies in the future.”
Sam spoke on this topic at the APSE and Socitm online event for Northern Ireland councils on 29 March 2023. The presentation is available for download here.