Women in Tech January - Sensing Change: The Rise of the Smart bins

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At tonight's Women In Tech Nottingham, Eleanor Tang shared the story of Enevo, the company she works for, and their work to make waste management less wasteful!

Eleanor introduced Eveno, and the solutions they provide to manage waste better. It sounds like a great platform that aims to reduce the time and resource cost for local authorities performing waste management.

Eleanor shared the hook that got her into the company - replacing the way that waste disposal trucks travel around a set route, emptying bins, regardless of whether they need to be emptied or not. It wastes time and effort, and often leads to missed collections when there are too many pickups, which increases community dissatisfaction.

With the ability to measure how full a bin is, waste disposal trucks can be sent only when needed, reducing the risk of wasted journeys leading to knock-on missed collections. But Eleanor went on to describe how they use predictive analytics to determine how long until the bin may be full, so it can plan the route more effectively, and as their algorithms get better, the predictions and analysis can only get better.

With the data-oriented approach, it can pull out information about trends of waste behaviour, track the fleet of trucks and look at the performance over time.

Eleanor hoped that she'd be coming in to change the nation, but unfortunately it's not that easy:

  • there's huge resistance to change in local authorities when looking to set it up
  • local authorities also have a lack of trust in the technology itself
  • local authorities are also quite sceptical of what the benefits could be
  • there's always an emphasis on solution costs
  • people don't really want to invest in waste management - it's one of those things that we all just want out of mind and handled magically, not actively spend more money in, even when it could save further money
  • the product needed to be tested further for failure cases such as "what will happen if pizza box stuck on top?" or "do people trust that we're not trying to track exactly what they put in the bins?"

Eleanor spoke about how difficult it is to break habits - such as trying to move from meat to meat-free options, but finding the muscle memory when shopping or cooking making it much harder to change - and that it's even worse in government where risk is harder.

Eleanor also mentioned that they decided to remove the option to have a free trial, because they found it devalues their product as people don't see as much value if you're giving (some of it) away for free. If something is sitting around waiting to be investigated, it'll be even lower priority if it's not being charged for.

Instead, they opted to install the product to collect ~8 weeks of data before making any changes. Then, allowing the local authority to use the autogenerated route plans, and compare the fuel + time cost savings, as well as mileage travelled in another ~8 week trial.

Eleanor shared that they found over 3 years, there was a:

  • 49% reduction carbon, with the opportunity to invest in more sustainable vehicles, too
  • 50% reduction in resources used for waste management
  • 51% reduction community complaints

Eleanor also shared the potential impacts for commercial bins, using some examples that they've seen - such as the bins filling up very quickly after being emptied, bins actually not being emptied when they're meant to be, and finding cost-saving decisions like recycling glass elsewhere, even if the local authority does not recycle it.

It was also interesting to hear about the impact of optimising the capacity of bins, to reduce the risk of over/underfilling.

It was also interesting to hear about how if the recycling bins fill up too soon, it's found that excess will most likely be thrown away in the general waste, which wastes valuable material that could be recycled! Or worse, in the reverse, waste could contaminate the recyclable waste for the whole truck, so has really poor impacts.

A great takeaway from a reply to a question that Eleanor gave was to use data to help others make decisions - instead of just telling them "I feel you should do this", give them the cold hard data to show them why they should do it.

This was a really great talk, and was really eye opening to some of the awesome work going on out there to make the world a better place.

Written by Jamie Tanna's profile image Jamie Tanna on , and last updated on .

Content for this article is shared under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International, and code is shared under the Apache License 2.0.

#events #wit-notts #environment #recycling #iot.

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