Today, I have the pleasure to host a very interesting interview, an interview that I am sure it’s going to be discussed a lot. I have to thank warmly Enevo’s CEO, Fredrik Kekalainen for his kind response to my questions as well as for his innovative views and insights. Founded in 2010, ENEVO is a forward-thinking company with a vision to transform the financial, environmental and social impact of waste. By collecting and analysing data from refuse containers across the world, Enevo is able to create efficiencies and cut the cost of waste collection and incentivise recycling. Enevo simplifies, de-risks and optimises the waste management process, helping to make a sustainable waste-free environment a more achievable proposition. This is one more piece about the Internet of Bins and I am sure that you find it useful, thoughtful and forward-hiking. Enjoy it.
We will be seeing a shift towards a more robust recycling model where waste generators recycle even the most challenging materials
- How the Internet of Bins transforms the traditional waste collection business models?
At Enevo, we believe in a world where all waste is a valued resource. Our mission is to enable communities with knowledge, services and tools to reduce waste. On a daily basis, we work with our waste industry customers: waste brokers, waste producers and local authorities, to make their operations more efficient. We do this using a sensor that measures how full each waste container is. Based on the data received from the containers, we can help our customers pick up containers when they are at or near full, reduce overflowing containers to keep cities clean and use their trucks and drivers more efficiently. Our customers have realized up to 30% savings in operational costs, not to mention increasing staff productivity, reducing truck traffic on the roads and contributing to reduction in GHG emissions.
- What are the current and the expected features of sensors in bins? How accurate they are now and what are the improvements expected?
On the software side, we are currently building out our waste analytics platform. The ability to make informed decisions based on data is only as good as the data itself. Our thousands of sensors deployed in the US, UK and Benelux regions provide us with near real-time, accurate readings that we can use to help our customers make operational decisions on how to manage their waste streams. This level of transparency and control is starting to get very exciting.
On the hardware side, the current focus is getting the sensors to be of minimal size, cost and capability to be attached to various size and types of bins. We are also researching more sensing capabilities that enable us to detect the type, density and value of the recyclable materials: material compositions (types of metals, plastics, fibers) and things like humidity, gases that emit odors (i.e. organics starting to ferment and losing some of its energy value). These are all things we are working on in our R&D lab.
- Give us one or two examples of successful application of sensors in bins, on a more roles massive scale. Let us know the experiences gained up to now, regarding both the benefits and the challenges involved.
We started working with a clothing donation recycler, Hearts for the Homeless (HFTH), in 2014. We ended up deploying our solution across 420 collection sites for HFTH. This provided powerful data reporting and analysis, via our web-based app, allowed better forecasting and the system’s dynamic capabilities enabled changes to collections and routes based on actual needs. HFTH saw their fill-levels at collection rise from 35% to over 80%. Their operations became more efficient and they are retaining and gaining customers with the level of customer service they are able to provide.
The City of Rotterdam place a heavy emphasis on preventing overflowing containers, which ultimately resulted in over servicing. Using the Enevo system, they moved from static to dynamic collections for their routes and as a result were able to reduce collection days by 20% with no overflow issues.
In Rotterdam, using the Enevo system, they were able to reduce collection days by 20%
- How the Internet of Bins is related to circular economy? How bin sensors can be used to stimulate recycling?
In the waste industry, there are pre-existing operations and hundreds of millions of waste containers on the ground, so Enevo is employing Product Life Extension, one of the fundamental circular economy business models In order to implement this circular economy model and fit into our customers’ operations, we chose to create a sensor that could retrofit on a majority of commercial waste containers and public space litter bins in the world. We are able to maximize the use of those assets on the ground by collecting them only when full and making sure each container is appropriately sized and serviced based on the waste generation rates of the site.
We view the sensor as a vehicle for the data and the insights it provides. In order to increase recycling, customers have used Enevo to compare waste generation volumes at similar sites. For example, a retail store we work with has a similar content mix from site to site. If one store is generating more waste and less recycling as a volume percentage than a comparable store, then you have identified an opportunity for improvement. You can target your outreach and training towards the store that has less recycling compliance, saving you time and expense trying to figure out where the need is the greatest. It is a near real-time feedback loop to stay on top of your stores’ performance.
- Are we heading towards a full automation of waste collection? Do you expect robots to get involved and driverless cars to collect waste? What are the main changes you expect for the next 10 years in collection, recycling, waste treatment and disposal?
While we are seeing growth in the autonomous vehicle space, we will not replace humans from operating the waste collection vehicles anytime soon. An analogy is that airplanes use autopilot today for the majority of the flight, but they still have a captain and a pilot to make sure unforeseeable situations can be handled and in special situations like takeoff. We do see that roles will expand from just driving trucks towards providing input and supervising more general operations based on the insights and the data they are receiving from their routes (which are Enevo enabled).
I think we will be seeing a shift towards a more robust recycling model where waste generators recycle even the most challenging materials and are able to pre-process these raw materials locally. Technologies like 3D printing and micro-sized waste-to-energy plants for local energy generation are shifting our abilities to realize these opportunities. Composting is another area where I see a lot of development though it is probably one of the oldest ways to process waste locally. As they say, we are coming full circle.