In Europe, we currently use up about 16 tons of material per person every year, of which 6 tons become waste. Although the management of that waste continues to improve, the economy still loses significant amounts of resources, such as metals, wood, glass, or paper. In 2015, the municipal waste production in the EU amounted to 477 kilograms per person. From this, only 29 percent was recycled. That is not only bad for the environment; it also loses us precious money. Turning waste into a resource is an important part of a circular economy. That’s why the European Commission set municipalities the target to recycle 65 percent of their waste by 2030.
Making recycling attractive
EcoBins is delivering the solution to help with this objective. “We want to convince municipalities and private companies that recycling is not only good for the environment. It is also a great way to earn money,” describes Tomasz Garbowski, CEO of EcoBins. How? “Our solution increases the efficiency of waste collection immensely. At the same time, it offers a variety of safety measures to prevent the loss of resources and containers.” In 2015, a team of software developers started to develop a smart bin management system. One year later, EcoBins as a company was founded; today ten employees work on improving the solution with new functionalities. “Right at the moment, one of our main customer groups are textile companies in Poland and Norway that collect used closes to recycle them,” says Tomasz. For them, EcoBins provides an easy to use product that doesn’t require expensive up-front investments. All it takes is to install sensors in waste containers; the company takes care of the rest.
High-tech going (in)to waste
EcoBins uses modern technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Computing to connect and monitor recycling containers. A multisensor has to be mounted inside the bin to measure filling levels. It also reports the container’s current position, tilt level and inside temperature. Via NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) this information gets transmitted onto a cloud server. Here, the data is being processed and analysed. The organized results are displayed to the users of the system through the EcoBins portal and a mobile or web app. Here, they can tap into the four main functionalities:
- Registering: Each registered container is assigned an ID, working capacity, stored material type, location and minimum required emptying frequency.
- Monitoring: Changes in filling levels get registered for each container and the system displays their status info on an interactive city map.
- Alarms: Based on the sensor data, EcoBins automatically recognizes if any of the containers has problems: is overfull, turned over, on fire, or opened. In this case, the system alarms its user via SMS or email immediately.
- Forecasts: By means of the gathered fill level data, EcoBins predicts when a container will have to be emptied. This helps to determine where additional or larger bins may be needed. It also enables operators to optimize collection routes. EcoBins proposes the shortest possible route, directing only to those locations, where collection is really needed, either because the container is full or because its emptying deadline has been reached. The optimization algorithm takes also into account such factors as the number and type of trucks, crew working schedules and even current traffic conditions.
NB-IoT: cheap and reliable
And why did the inventors of this solution decide to use NarrowBand IoT for it and take part in the start-up initiative NB-IoT Prototyping Hub? “Other telco companies only think about such new technologies; Deutsche Telekom conducts it already,” Tomasz says. “And it is simply the perfect connectivity for our product.” That is on the one hand because NB-IoT is very cost attractive. It has low purchasing and operating costs due to its low power consumption. And it is also the only Low Power Wide Area network in a licensed spectrum. Compared to technologies in the unlicensed spectrum, NB-IoT is able to guarantee a high availability and Quality of Service (QoS).