Next Generation Technologies: RFID for a targeted approach to Promotion & Education

Municipal recycling costs have continued to increase annually, due to the increasing complexity and light-weighting of the packaging supplied into the market. Sorting challenges and confusion amongst residents is growing as packaging becomes more complex and multi-layered. In turn, this contributes to higher contamination rates and higher net system costs.

The CIF, in partnership with the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario, undertook a project to research and evaluate several next generation recycling technologies. The final “Next Gen Recycling Technologies” report explored the utility and limitations of a range of different pieces of equipment and systems, designed to improve blue box program performance. Back in December, we profiled one of these new technologies in the blog “Next Generation Technologies: Spotlight on in-bin cameras“.  Today’s blog takes a closer look at Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and considers its applicability for contamination abatement efforts.

The untapped utility of RFID technology

RFID technology has been used for years in the waste industry to track containers and monitor when they are emptied. Its basic components are an RFID tag, which is effectively a programmable digital serial number attached to the bin, and an RFID reader on the collection vehicle. While this technology has been around for a long time, there are now products and services on the market that allow for a robustly integrated and automated system. RFID can work with GPS, scales, cameras and other on-vehicle data collection and in turn, automate a response when appropriate.

As an example, a camera placed in the hopper of a truck could identify contamination from a recycling cart. The system could automatically alert the driver and issue a letter or create a work-order for an enforcement action to that specific address. Over time, the system could identify repeat offenders and areas with consistent issues. By automating this process, the drivers may spend less time addressing issues, while ensuring that educational or enforcement actions taken are timely and consistent. This could be especially helpful for cart-based programs where contamination is not easily detected until the bin is tipped.

Combining RFID and camera technologies can help municipalities optimize allocation of their P&E dollars through campaigns targeted to address problems at their source. Automation helps to minimize the impact on staffing resources. As well, consistent data collection can be analyzed to help develop appropriate remedies and potential longer-term solutions, such as pay-as-you-throw or utility rate-based fees for waste collection.

System is robust, but has limitations

RFID systems, along with GPS and cameras, track significant amounts of data from the field. It is critical for municipalities looking to deploy this technology to inform residents of how the data will be used to minimize privacy concerns. Another potential limitation of this technology is that in areas with spotty cell reception users could lose real-time connectivity. However, data is still collected/stored and can be uploaded once a connection can be made.

For more about RFID technology, its utility, its limitations, and how it is able to integrate with other technologies, pick up a copy of the report “Next Gen Technologies“.

Opportunities with CIF?

This year’s CIF Operations Plan includes funding for transitional support initiatives. It is intended to be for projects of collective benefit providing research, Ontario-based data, and guidance to municipalities across the Province. Funding for transitional support initiatives include opportunities for:

  • Collection and processing research and pilots
  • Performance analytics and better practices promotion

CIF staff welcome the thoughts and input from municipalities and First Nations blue box service providers to help develop proposals. Contact us today to discuss your current service delivery and transition planning needs. Look to our blogs and transition project reports like the CIF’s Next Gen Recycling Technologies Study for examples of ideas that may address common or Province wide collective concerns.