Editorial: How technology is driving innovation in waste management

Industry Updates

April 11, 2019

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Advances in collection and recycling automation, data and reporting, and specialised waste management technologies are key factors that are driving the smart management of waste today. We take a look at some of the most recent innovations that are making a difference across the material recovery chain from collection and processing to recovery.

Enhanced collection performance

Logistics software, in-vehicle monitors, camera and mobile apps like Cleanaview provide extraordinary insights into collection events, like missed or broken bins and contamination. Cleanaview cameras allow the driver to record contaminated bins before they’re tipped into the hopper and provide photo evidence back to the customer to explain why the bin was not collected and improve recycling behaviour. There are also cameras in the hopper to record if contamination is in the bin and needs to be disposed of as general waste.

Sensors and bin weights are also critical to the way customers track their waste volumes to optimise services and work towards sustainability targets. Customers that are regularly recording significant weights can look at alternative services like organics to reduce weight from wet food waste; change their scheduling to collect before the bin becomes over-full or increase bin sizes to accommodate volume. Conversely, if there is irregularity detected in bin weights the data can flag up incorrect or illegal use of the bin. Compactors fitted with sensors can be a great solution for larger customers who need on-call servicing.

Electric vehicles (EV) are set to revolutionise waste collections with energy-efficient and low-environmental impact services. The quieter and emissionless fleets are set to avoid tonnes of carbon emissions while replacing the use of diesel as an energy source. Stay tuned for a Cleanaway announcement on this later this month.

Previously impossible resource recovery

On the food recovery front, expired, damaged or mislabelled food products that were previously destined for landfill because there was no economic way to remove them from their packaging can now be recovered. Our depackaging unit technology separates large volumes of food or liquid from its aluminium, plastic, liquid paperboard or cardboard packaging resulting in up to 99% recovery of organic material.

The Swiss-developed BluBox technology is another example of a recycling solution that is capable of processing large volumes of waste without endangering human health or contaminating the environment. It is a single 40-foot container that takes flat screens, mobile phones, fluorescent tubes and lamps, and safely shreds and separates them into various materials like glass, aluminium, and plastics. Hazardous mercury and rare earth metals are filtered out and collected in sealed drums to prevent leakage. BluBox also recovers valuable materials like gold, silver, and platinum so they can be reused to make new products, providing an end-to-end recycling solution for industrial producers of electronic waste and community councils alike.

In the healthcare sector, fully automated wash lines can now decant, wash, decontaminate and dry reusable pharmaceutical waste containers without health and safety risks from human contact. The Daniels Sharpsmart reusable container has over five years of research invested into its design and engineering and is an engineered safety device which eliminates risk of container-related sharps injury. Washsmart, the robotic washline technology, achieves a six-log bacterial load reduction, which is a four times higher sanitation than required by the CDC in the United States. 940,000kgs of single-use plastic is eliminated each year with Daniels Sharpsmart reusable collectors.

Circular supply chains for difficult to recycle waste

On-shore recycling solutions create new end markets for recovered plastic material – such as turning consumer soft plastics into outdoor furniture and decking (Replas), using low grade mixed plastics to produce commercial grade recyclable plastic products (Newtecpoly) and incorporating recovered plastic into footpaths and roadways (Sustainability Victoria).

Chemically degraded plastics are also being used to make new plastic polymers – Unilever and PepsiCo are using new technology to chemically recycle multilayered sachets and PET into its component monomers, while Nestlé and Coca Cola are investigating pyrolysis and gasification techniques to turn plastic into fuel oils for energy.

For stakeholders in the waste management sector, technology is the number one driver for long-term sustainability, but its capital-intensive nature means that the plan for tomorrow’s innovations begin with the collaborative efforts of industry players today. Those who ignore planning in favour of short-term solutions, do so at the risk of of being left behind in the sustainable future.

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