The Impact of Covid-19 on Waste Collection - Do we need data analysis?
Updated: Mar 13
It goes without saying that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has been affecting many industries and unfortunately the waste management sector has been one of them. Consequently, in no time public authorities and municipal organizations had to adapt their waste management systems and procedures during the lockdown period and afterward.
Since this tragic pandemic affects the health of people, citizens, and employees, the waste sector had to ensure their protection while still maintaining a continuous service for garbage collection and its treatment. Although a continuous service was guaranteed, in some cases more waste has been generated than the average number. This is a consequence of lockdown since people had more time to do a full cleanup of their houses or other personal spaces.
As a reference, in Belgium the collection containers for second-hand clothes had been closed, thus people had to keep their old clothes at home. Next to that, long lines were created in front of recycling centers accepting bulky waste and waste electrical & electronic equipment. In Europe on the other hand, the number of illegal dumping of garbage increased, and to add up, a new waste product was added to household and street bins; so-called PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) better known as facemasks, gloves and used hand sanitizer bottles.
Impact on waste collection
First of all, many countries had to reallocate manpower and its resources to guarantee the waste collection services during the pandemic. Consequently, priorities had to be set on specific waste fractions for example first guaranteeing the collection of residual waste, then bio-waste, then packaging waste, etc.
Because of the pandemic’s safety restrictions, household recycling centers or civic amenity sites were not considered a priority and have been closed. At the same time, people took advantage to get rid of old furniture, clothes, electronics and complained because they could not bring their waste to the recycling centers. As a result, the closure of container parks led to an increase in the illegal disposal of waste which has been reported from the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Portugal.
Moreover, many tourist areas experienced a decrease in waste generation. In Barcelona for example waste generation dropped by 25%. In Milan, however, without the tourists and many business activities, the total waste generation had decreased and the city managed to reallocate staff towards the separate collection centers. In non-touristic cities, the reallocation of employees was often not possible.
Waste collection adaptations
Based on research done of ACR+ (Association for Cities & Regions for sustainable resource management) on the municipal waste collection and its relationship with the ongoing pandemic, they realized there are different trends that do affect the waste collection system.
First of all, the frequency of collection times got modulated according to the specific needs of the system. For example, staff shortages could happen or any specific health & safety measures implemented that could reduce the efficiency and productivity of the workforce. Also, the prioritization of different waste types could also affect the overall system that used to be in place before the pandemic happened.
To get more into detail, since the amount of mixed waste, as well as residual waste, increased because of lockdown, the frequency of the waste collection times needed to be increased too. On the other hand, the frequency of collection of recyclables and bio waste will run the same as usual, however, the frequency might be reduced depending on the area and population as well as the number of bio containers.
BrighterBins offering an improved & efficient solution
Because of its unique and innovative Smart Sensors linked to its own developed Smart Platform, BrighterBins could actually provide an improved and more efficient waste collection system that will take the impact of the ongoing pandemic into account.
The Smart Platform helps accelerate the business decisions necessary to optimize waste management operations. Sensors installed on bins send data to an intelligent and powerful cloud-based platform via the Sigfox, NBIoT, and LoRaWAN network. We use AI and machine learning to calculate the optimal routes for pickup trucks.
Based on research done in several cities it is estimated that when bins are emptied, they are, on average, 40% full. Wouldn't it make more sense if the bin is emptied when it's almost completely full?
In this case, the waste pickup companies would save time, money, and fuel, since they would not have to spend too many hours in the field. As a consequence, the workforce will be kept healthy and safe, making sure the social distance levels are maintained. In times of the pandemic, this results in optimized work efficiency implemented in a safe and clean environment.
Moreover, BrighterBins has a sustainable impact which contributes to climate action and greener and cleaner cities. Therefore, an investment in BrighterBins will reduce costs of garbage pick-up, there will be less waste on the ground and consequently have a more beautiful and sustainable city.
Interreg Europe, I. (2020, July 7). News - Policy Learning Platform. Retrieved from Interreg Europe: https://www.interregeurope.eu/policylearning/news/9076/covid-19-the-impact-of-the-pandemic-on-the-waste-sector/
ACR+. (2020, July 14). Retrieved from ACR+: https://www.acrplus.org/en/municipal-waste-management-covid-19