Waste management service companies face a number of challenges in an era of increased expectations related to efficiency and accountability, and the advent of demanding sustainability and other “green” initiatives. Challenges include reducing unproductive trips, increasing route and fleet efficiencies, and potentially supporting the data-tracking needs of incentive-based customer recycling programs. In many cases, underperforming trucks must be redeployed to areas or routes that are more heavily burdened. Additionally, municipalities increasingly want greater accountability from their providers for services rendered, and a quick resolution when there is bin loss or damage. Meanwhile, in the commercial and industrial sectors, it is increasingly essential to manage and know the locations of all high-value assets and containers.
RFID technology provides a reliable and durable solution for meeting these challenges. In the past, tracking waste was a slow, costly and labor-intensive process. Modern RFID technology has played a game-changing role in the industry by bringing about a major shift in how waste management companies operate, whether it’s managing weighbridges, optimizing fleet efficiency, or analyzing individual customer profit and loss. In order to realize RFID technology’s benefits, though, it is necessary to build the right system for the application – one that provides the optimal combination of reliability, functionality and performance, and is backed by all necessary product warranties, technical support and customer service.
RFID System Benefits
Most consumers and businesses don’t think about what happens to waste after they dispose of it, but those responsible for waste handling have a huge stake in knowing and managing information about what they collect, how much they collect, where it originates, and where it goes.
RFID tags attached to waste containers deliver this critical information by supporting the identification and traceability of waste streams. In a typical home or business, the unique ID number of a tag is associated with a bin and that bin’s owner or address. During the process of recognizing, lifting and registering bins, the tag is read and the information is time-coded and logged. In applications such as medical waste, the receptacle itself is collected, transported to a disposal point, and returned to its place of origin. In such applications, a read/write tag may actually collect, as well as disseminate, information.
The goal of an RFID solution is to simplify operator tasks, provide increased transparency of operations, and maximize returns on an operator’s investment. RFID systems enable operators to monitor sorting quality, and to track the weight of each container’s content and how often a container is set out for collection. These systems also simplify billing for service, and support the implementation of incentive-based invoicing for recycling and other programs.
Variation in weight of waste from one unit or dwelling to another is one of several principle drivers for the use of RFID solutions. Waste can vary from 1,100 to 4,400 pounds per year from one house to the next. RFID technology encourages recycling as it enables a system to manage charges based on usage, rather than applying a flat charge for every customer. In the U.S., a bonus is sometimes paid for recycling, and this practice is growing in popularity around the world, creating the need for reliable data tracking.
The demands of waste management will continue to grow, as “green” and other sustainability initiatives demand closer tracking of recycling streams. Operators also need to maximize efficiency and accountability, protect valuable assets, and potentially support incentive-based recycling programs that encourage waste reduction. Additionally, changes in waste handling technology or the special needs of certain applications may require the ability to track different types of materials in different ways, not just at pickup, but through the entire waste management process. Today’s RFID systems provide the tools for meeting these and other demanding challenges, while enabling operators to reduce fleet costs and provide a more comprehensive service to their customers.