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Waste not, want not

10/12/2012

  • Recycling,
  • Technology,
  • Waste
  • Portugal

A Portuguese company has been recognised for its waste management software – an example of how modern technology can make environmental services more efficient.

Compta Emerging Business, headquartered in historic Évora in southern-central Portugal, received in September a Green Projects Award Portugal for the best technological solution in the areas of environment and sustainable development for its EZWaste software. EZWaste is one of a number of software packages (others include Wastedge and WRATE) that promise environmental benefits through the optimisation of waste collection.

Using EZWaste, coupled with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags and GPS technology, municipalities and waste management companies can identify the most efficient waste collection routes, make sorting of waste more systematic, trace waste loads from collection to recycling or disposal, and can have better control over the waste disposal process. Waste can be more clearly identified and categorised, and traced through the waste management system, so that, for example, recyclable waste does not end up being needlessly landfilled.

Manuel Leitão of Compta says that use of such technology is environmentally beneficial, and generates savings for cash-strapped public authorities. The first way in which environmental benefits are produced is through “route optimisation, detections of route errors, definition of specific routes instead of routine routes, less need for trucks and routes,” and thus a reduction in the resource consumption of garbage trucks, he says.

In addition, the technology makes the introduction of “pay as you throw” systems easier, Leitão says – it provides data that can underpin such a system, and it can be an incentive for more diligent sorting of waste by households and businesses if they know that their waste is being monitored. EZWaste and similar management programmes could thus help promote resource efficiency by underpinning the separation of different waste streams, as a basis for their reuse or recycling.

Other benefits include easier reporting of illegally dumped waste, and quicker dispatch of teams to clean up the waste. Waste from recycling sites can be more efficiently collected because sensors will tell the system when a recycling container is full. In addition, EZWaste includes modules covering cleaning services that use water, and can provide data on water consumption, helping identify areas where water savings can be made.

In terms of financial savings, Leitão says that it depends “on the degree of knowledge and other tools that the municipality has”. Previously poorly managed operations can see a huge return on investment once waste management software is installed. Savings for municipalities could amount to hundreds of thousands of euros annually, because of the redefinition of waste management routes and more efficient and timely emptying of kerbside containers, according to Compta calculations. One authority calculated a return of investment for the software of more than 600%, taking into account diesel reductions, more efficiently planned maintenance, and reductions in working hours, Leitão says.