Measuring Impact In Sustainable Waste Management

In order for recycling, composting and other such sustainability projects and programs to be successful, the implementer needs to engage the customer, the sponsor and often a funder with a series of metrics that make the value and contribution of each entity in the recycling relationship clearly visible.

  • For the funder or sponsor, performance and efficiency metrics are critical.
  • For the customer / user, a sense of value and contribution from participating in the process needs to be highlighted.
  • For the implementer, operational statistics and optimization parameters can enable cost savings and process efficiency.

Problem Overview

Any recycling workflow involves the collection of material to be recycled, separation of recyclables from the stream, processing of recyclables so that they can be reused and then their introduction back into the usage chain.

A fundamental set of metrics provides visibility and controlability of the process.

  • Ability to identify and measure the weight / volume of incoming recyclables.
  • Ability to optimize processing. In the common case of composting, this the ability to track composting process.
  • Ability to translate the measurements into customer / funder relevant metrics such as tree-equivalents saved.

Solution Framework

We describe a simple solution framework for obtaining these desired metrics using the following building blocks:

  • Battery powered, low power wide area network (LPWAN) connected, hardened weighing scales.
  • Open source, cloud based backends.
  • Run-anywhere web applications to provide engaging user interfaces.A typical solution architecture for composting as an example consists of a light weight web-application that is used by the customer or the implementer at the point of collection to identify the participant and the type of material.

Solution Outline

Composting barrels or bins are mounted on weighing scales that sample and record the weight of the bins at regular intervals. Sampled data is sent over LPWAN to the back end where individual customer, bin and recycling location statistics are gathered.

Weight changes in the compost can be used to keep track of compost loading and removal. In addition changes in the weight can also be mapped into a proxy for stages in composting as a low cost measurement. (Temperature is also often used, but requires more elaborate infrastructure and process). This data can be used by the operator to optimize the process and to also generate charging information.

Collected statistics are mapped into recycle goals such as carbon equivalents etc for reporting. Individual statistics can be “gamified” and displayed using leader boards etc to encourage increased customer participation.

The use of hardware independent web-apps, makes it easy for all parties to participate in the data gathering and analysis. In addition the back end can be used to maintain proactive messaging and alerting.

Here is a short article that is an example of why smart weighing can be such a useful solution building block.

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