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Digital Tools Help Communities Face Their Growing Waste Crisis


The volume of human waste is increasing and is predicted to rise by 70 percent until 2050. It is urgent to lessen the pressure on the environment and communities worldwide, especially those who are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. For starters, waste collection must be more efficient, and the recovery of the value derived from the waste stream must be increased.

How can digital tools help?

As Delterra’s project manager in digital innovations, I’ve observed firsthand what can be achieved when tools are developed and implemented extensively and inclusively. I’ve also noticed some obstacles holding us from achieving our goals.

The technology is in place. The system isn’t.

Technologies that are digitally enabled are readily available for every step of the process of managing waste. However, implementation must be more cohesive for a sustainable, lasting effect.

The attempts to digitize have usually been unconnected or separate in the private sector. Many large corporations utilize digital tools to reduce their waste and improve recycling rates. To address the current issue, however, we require complete, comprehensive, end-to-end digitalization; honestly, this has yet to be implemented in municipal waste management programs.

Opportunities are everywhere on many different fronts. Digital tools can boost efficiency by enabling more data-driven decisions and help expand the existing operation by finding infrastructure inefficiencies. They can also assess the current recycling or trash collection levels and monitor the progress made. They can also aid in better communication between the government and the citizens.

This article is focused on the most exciting strategies within the field, and the following article will explore two concrete cases of how digital tools can unlock the value of Delterra’s experience working with local communities of Indonesia and Argentina.

High-touch digital device

It is clear that municipal waste management is a highly-touch, distributed, and high-frequency system that requires various substances. We’ve been examining how digital technology can assist in solving many of the issues that municipalities have to overcome when they attempt to effectively collect their waste and recycle as much material as possible.

Here are a few of the most exciting examples we’ve come across. I consider them in the four buckets. I want your thoughts on which one should be the most important.

I’d like to hear about your experiences with these and other examples you might have!

Positive engagement in the household.

The success of any waste management program is based, first and foremost, on community support and significant conversations with its residents. This is how technology can be helpful:

  • ChatbotsPersonally my experience is that I find it helpful to receive digital reminders to remind me which days I should take out which curbside. 
  • Social experiences that are gamified: These are powerful devices to boost community involvement and increase household separation rates between sources. Examples include trading in waste for bartered products or accruing points that can be used to purchase from partner e-commerce sites and bricks and mortar shops.
  • Map-based application recycling collection locations or sorting centers allowers to quickly determine which stream to recycle.
  • Apps that connect household waste pickers to households: In countries with informal waste management systems, these apps assist in making the job of waste pickers less complicated and more lucrative.
  • Pay-as-you-throw systems: These services directly encourage individuals to separate their garbage. The use of digital bill and identification methods facilitates them.
  • Self-driving garbage trucks: Alongside street sweepers, these trucks reduce costs and increase security. Sensors on autonomous vehicles continuously check the surroundings and alert the car to stop if obstacles appear.
  • Drones also deserve a place on this list because they can collect and track information on garbage dumps.

Automation of waste management: Technology could aid in streamlining and increasing the rate at which waste is classified and tracked. Some of the most exciting applications that I’m excited about:

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Jane S. King

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