Are New Technologies Always Sustainable? | by Waste Labs | Waste Labs | Oct, 2021

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In our series of blog posts called Waste Labs Insights, I, Vladimir Chuchkin, the CEO of Waste Labs, am sharing with you some of the lessons we learned from our client engagements in Waste Management in 2020.

As we are getting more attention from developing countries, I decided to dedicate this article to one of their frequent requests around selection of new waste collection technologies.

One of my very first handbooks on waste collection was “Waste Collection of Municipal Solid Waste in Developing Countries” by UN-Habitat (you can get it from here).

In its foreword, we come across quite an evident and important point: inappropriate technological choices, particularly in small and medium-sized towns, lead to unaffordable costs, bringing the entire solid waste management process to a halt.

Let’s take an example. A waste collection team needs to purchase new bins for their commercial customers. They assess various bin designs, getting impressed with the new bins’ technologies and characteristics. They decide to go with a new big 600-litre bin that enables front-load collection. The pros are that you need only one operator (can be the truck driver) as against three or more for rear-end loading. It is also timely: just over 30 seconds for one bin. Lastly, it is safer and reduces safety incidents to a few percent.

While that might sound attractive, it does not fully represent all the costs of implementing this technology. For example, their province might not generate 600 litres worth of waste per customer in certain areas, which will make the daily collection a cost-ineffective solution. Also, the front load trucks need wider streets which is a rare luxury for most councils or provinces, especially in congested cities around the world. As such, it can help a collector to make extra profit and efficiency in one area, but at the same time result in a negative Return on Investments (ROI) in other service areas.

However, there is a way to get around this through Modelling. To estimate how the performance and profits will change, modelling a new technology within your current system can provide insights that can allow you to make better decisions.

How a waste collection manager comes to this conclusion may vary. One can rely on its own operational experience, industry knowledge and Excel formulas. Others may wish to engage a consultant to model and design the changes.

At Waste Labs, we built the Modelling capability into the set of our base Planning applications. It becomes available to the client once the Digital Twin of the collection system is in place. With that, we can virtually deploy the new bins, trucks or transfer stations and see how the collection system changes in terms of performance, collection costs and even CO2 emission. And similarly, when developing new collection plans and routes, it takes us seconds (sometimes minutes) to come up with and evaluate new collection scenarios.

Both Elias, the CTO of Waste Labs, and myself shared an idea of making Modelling more accessible. We thought that it will raise awareness about the potential social and economic gains that one can make from adopting appropriate and efficient waste management systems. And it’s good that we were right.

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