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Five achievements that artificial intelligence will bring to urban waste collection

Artificial intelligence (AI) is slowly making an impact on all sectors including urban waste collection. Currently about 100 cities in the world use pneumatic waste collection systems.

Not only are they reducing the amount of visual contact the general public has with waste (from the disposal point, the waste travels through an underground network to a collection centre) and removing collection trucks from the streets, but these systems are also now incorporating artificial intelligence as a function.

A new generation of pneumatic waste collection systems, which are already starting to appear in cities, are revolutionising the very concept of waste collection including waste collection carried out by the municipality.

These are feats – which, until now, have been unthinkable – for a service that for centuries has been conceived as one involving roaming carts or heavy trucks running along extensive circuits of bins scattered through every street.

Here are five radical changes that AI brings to waste collection in cities:

  • The information provided by the system allows municipalities to create efficient management models.
  • Through algorithms that analyse the information, the systems themselves can make predictions regarding the emptying needs of each inlet, considerably minimising energy consumption. The system availability for the user will be maximized and the efficiency of the system will be improved.
  • Citizens’ awareness of environmental protection will increase in a natural way. As is already the case with the information provided by electricity, gas or water suppliers to citizens, users of the waste collection service will now know precisely the volume of waste deposited into the system by the household. For the system’s owner, it will be a good basis for designing better-targeted and more accurate environmental awareness campaigns.
  • The town councils will know the habits of the users and the amount, type of waste and frequency with which they use the system. And therefore they can focus on the areas or individuals that require improvement.
  • The individualisation of the service will bring a change in the model of service provision: instead of a linear rate, as has been the case up until now, municipalities can charge citizens for their actual usage of the system. Like any other basic infrastructure, citizens will pay individually depending on how much they use the waste collection service.

All these advantages will be added to those already offered by pneumatic waste collection systems for almost 60 years, which are:

  • Constant availability 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without the risk of suspension of the collection service due to severe weather or strikes.
  • Accessibility to the disposal points both inside the buildings and on the street, which are always located at a reasonable distance from the house.
  • Easy to dispose of the different fractions of waste sorted at source, through one single disposal point, with different inlets for each type of waste.
  • No physical contact with the waste once the user has disposed of the bags into the hermetically sealed system, which means bad odours and vermin issues disappear.
  • Waste collection is managed like any other urban infrastructure service such as water, sewage and electricity, and usage is charged for accordingly.
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