Environment

Innovative Finns find cash in waste management

23/02/2016
Innovative Finns find cash in waste management

A young Finnish company claims to be revolutionising the way waste is collected from public areas by using data from sensors to alert authorities to overflowing rubbish bins and recycling containers. The company, Espoo-based Enevo, has secured major backing from investors and is expanding in Europe and North America.

Rubbish collection based on need

Enevo produces a sensor device that has been likened to a “bloated hockey puck.” The device is installed in municipal rubbish bins and recycling containers – for example in parks or shopping areas – and monitors the level of waste that is piling up. It can also detect movement and act as a smoke detector. Data generated from the sensors is continuously relayed to municipal managers via a digital management system.

Using this data, managers can put in place needs-based collection systems, rather than relying on inefficient, fixed collection routes that pick up waste from bins whether they need to be emptied or not. As the Enevo system builds up data, it is able to predict where the fullest bins are likely to be found and to plan waste collection routes accordingly. The system is continually updated, and routes can be modified to take account of changes in waste volumes. Because the sensors also detect movement and smoke, they can alert managers to problems such as vandalism or rubbish-bin fires.

Fuel and cost savings

The company claims a number of benefits from the system. It prevents overflowing bins and therefore stops rubbish from spilling over into streets and parks. It enables operational efficiencies in deployment of collection vehicles, and therefore can reduce fuel costs and the associated emissions. It improves recycling levels through more efficient collections from recycling sites.

Perhaps most significantly, however, from the municipal point of view, Enevo claims that the system cuts collection costs by as much as half. An increasing number of cities are trialling the service. In the city of Kirkland, near Seattle in the United States, it was found that at two recycling locations, containers were being emptied two and three times per week, respectively, whereas they reached capacity only once per week. The city calculated that the saving from cutting out unnecessary collections at just these two sites would be $7,800 per year.

The company is finding substantial demand for its sensors, and has expanded rapidly since its set-up in 2010. It now has offices in Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US. The technology is being trialled or installed in cities in 35 countries including Birmingham (UK), Helsinki, Tromsø (Norway) and Washington DC. In June 2015, Enevo received a major vote of confidence – it successfully raised $15.8 million (around €14.6 million) in funding from venture capital backers to underpin its further expansion.

Further information: https://www.enevo.com/