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17 maj 2019

As urban areas grow, so must your approach to waste management

Martijn Schimmer

Kommunal avfallsinsamling Insamling av industri- och företagsavfall (Rullflak Containrar) Rutt- och verksamhetsoptimering

Waste generation will outpace population growth by more than double by 2050, says a 2018 report by the World Bank. The study links growth in prosperity and movement to urban areas to increases in per capita generation of waste.

This not only makes traditional means of collecting bins impractical, it also puts a tremendous financial strain on waste management companies and especially municipals, who are already operating under constrained budgets.

Waste management currently accounts for around 4% of local authority budgets in high-income countries – even higher in some areas – up to around 20% in local-income countries. To tackle the problem of collecting higher volumes of waste while keeping costs manageable, municipals and waste management in general must become more efficient. The question is, how to do that in order to make growth sustainable.

These are solutions that smart municipals around the world are already taking advantage of with great success:

Collective container-based solutions
These have proven effective at reducing operating costs, with the additional benefit of cutting CO2 emissions. The reasons are intertwined. Underground containers, for instance, have a greater holding capacity than typical bins, which in turn can reduce collection frequency. Fewer trips equals lower carbon emissions and operating costs.

Real-time fleet planning
We said ‘can’ for good reason. Underground, semi-underground, or above-ground containers can’t give you efficiencies by themselves. Dynamic, real-time fleet planning is needed to realise those gains. What you’re getting – what you should be getting – is real-time route planning, route optimization and dispatching of distribution and collection routes.

Fleet planning gives you agility, and that’s key. Without it, it’s business as usual. Your goal is to optimise your processes, and the way to do that is to have a transparent and complete window into your transportation and sites. This allows you to make informed decisions based on accurate information instead of assumptions.

How do you know if your containers are overfilled or underfilled? With forecasting as part of your fleet planning, you’re using historical data from sensors and IoT devices to determine when containers will be filled and need collection. A good solution can do this with just a few week’s data, but of course, the more, the better so that trends are more readily spotted and implemented for the most accurate picture.

Ideally, you want forecasts for the replenishment time of stocks, or reversed, forecasts when stocks (in this example waste containers) are filled and need collection. A forecasting tool should automatically generate orders, which are then used in the planning system’s order bank for route planning and optimisation.

Route optimisation

Route optimisation is another important part of fleet planning.

Picture this: an underground container unexpectedly reaches near capacity. A sensor alerts you that it needs collection. An order is created for you and goes into your fleet planner. Often, it’s the drivers who plan their routes, but by using dynamic route optimisation, you have real-time planning and re-planning based on new information, such as that automatic order generation you just received. Such a system will automatically assign ad hoc-orders like these to existing routes for execution.

Always go with a best-in-class solution in order to ensure you get the results you need. If your choice of fleet planner is doing its job – as a best-in-class solution will do – you’re looking at tremendous outcomes, such as those experienced by waste management company Twente Milieu in the Netherlands.

Using AMCS Fleet Planner, they increased the volume they collected per hour by up to 25%. They also saw a rise in filling degree by 30%. In addition, by reducing total weekly mileage by 35%, they were able to take one truck off the road and cancel the purchase of two additional trucks.

These aren’t the only benefits a best-in-class fleet planner can give you. You could also see driving time decrease by up to 20%, and time needed for planning can be decreased by up to 75%, all while significantly improving your customer service and visit accuracy.

The bottom line is, as urban areas change, waste collection has to as well.