IoT Turns Trash into Treasure with Waste Management Solution

Smart cities, manufacturers, and packaging companies benefit from reverse recycling machines that reward consumers for tossing their trash.


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Image credit: Indra Onesait

Artificial intelligence helps civil engineers create smart cities and smart programs that benefit residents, improve sustainability, and use resources wisely. From traffic analytics to waste collection, smart city programs are on the rise.

Sometimes that means upending traditional programs. The Onesait Sustainability Waste solution is one example. Onesait, an Indra company, is rethinking urban recycling programs, which generally rely on citizens to place recyclable items into a specific waste container. The success of those programs hinge on buy-in from citizens. Individuals have to believe that recycling is beneficial, they have to do it, and they need convenient access to recycling receptacles. It’s a noble endeavor, but probably isn’t reliable enough to reach the coveted circular economy.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reward                                                                                       

Onesait tackles the issue from another angle: what incentives will encourage more recycling, and how can it directly benefit cities and citizens? The answer is the Onesait Sustainability Waste program. It is, essentially, a reverse vending machine (RVM) that accepts recyclable waste, such as cans and bottles. The machine is integrated with AI software tools that can assess the input and reward the recycler with discounts at a local store or free passes to the public pool.

The machines are placed in high-traffic zones, to encourage use. The consumer downloads a mobile app. When an individual recycles a container, the machine displays a QR code that the user scans to receive the reward. The benefit is based on the type and condition of the recycled item. The machine will reject items that aren’t accepted, ensuring that all collected waste can be recycled properly, which drives up recycling ratios and supports the shift to a circular economy.

yellow recycling collection box with sensors

Image credit: Indra

The Circle of Waste

In addition, the AI software monitors the machine itself and analyzes its intake. The city gleans information about consumption and waste patterns. It can add refuse containers when and where they are needed and adjust waste collection schedules based on real-time data. If data is public, citizens can track recycling programs to see their collective impact on sustainability.

The Onesait Sustainability Waste platform also can share data with all parties in the waste chain. Waste collection agencies can use the data to target collections, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions. Treatment facilities potentially can change how recyclable goods are processed and revalued.

Up the Ante on Regulatory Compliance

The European Union has passed a law that holds manufacturers responsible for recycling, recovering, and reusing their packaging. The Onesait solution can share collected data with packaging producers, distributors, and manufacturers to help companies gauge the likelihood their containers are recycled. Successful companies can highlight their eco-friendly packaging, a marketing boon for an environmentally conscious economy.

Onesait lends its technology to a recycle-for-rewards program in Spain, where consumers scan an item’s barcode, recycle it, and scan a QR code for the reward. Onesait developed and maintains the integration between the end-user app and the recycling machines; it handles management and operational tasks as well. With this program, the Spanish town of Sant Boi del Llobregat has seen recycling increase as much as 25 percent in some areas.

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