One of the prerequisites for building a smart city is effective monitoring and management of solid waste. Unfortunately, most Indian cities fail to treat waste effectively as the existing solid waste management (SWM) infrastructure is inefficient and inadequate. Often overlooked, but a lack of technology penetration in SWM is a key reason for the dismal scenario. Urban local bodies (ULBs) also suffer due to the absence of internet of things-based devices and information and communication technology (ICT)-based solutions. This is where the Smart Cities Mission has stepped in and is pushing for the adoption of smart technologies to deal with the issue of waste management. Intelligent technology solutions such as smart bins with sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on transportation vehicles and deployment of geopositioning systems (GPS) are gaining ground under the mission. Cities such as Surat, Indore and Coimbatore have already introduced smart solutions to streamline waste management processes. Other cities too need to deploy similar technologies and create awareness among end users to attain zero discharge status.
Solutions in store
In most cities, the process of waste management, which begins with segregation of waste at source and is followed by collection, is inefficient. ULBs do not have the required manpower and expertise to monitor the process on a real-time basis. Adoption of solutions such as smart bins with sensors, smart garbage haulers with GPS tracking facility and on-board weighing systems, and access to smart mobile applications for monitoring of waste activities are essential.
Surat has introduced several initiatives to manage the waste generated in the city. As part of the mission, 43 underground garbage bins (each with a waste carrying capacity of 1.5 tonnes) have been deployed across the city. These bins are equipped with ultrasonic sensors for measuring the level of garbage and to send alerts to the control room as soon as the container is 70 per cent full. The alerts are sent through an ICT-based GPS which is deployed in bins as well as on trucks. For door-to-door waste collection, the corporation has deployed about 425 smart garbage haulers on 900 routes across the city. Each of the vehicles is provided with an RFID tag along with GPS for tracking their movement on a real-time basis. This has helped the Surat Municipal Corporation improve its per-vehicle productivity, reduce non-compliance and optimise fleet utilisation. Other IT components such as hardware (servers), software and network devices have been installed at the control room to monitor activities through the dashboard and prepare detailed analysis report for informed decision-making.
Another technology solution, a mobile-based smart waste management application offers several features to overcome waste management challenges. Technology providers develop mobile applications embedded with various modules such as bin management, vehicle management, weight management, among others, to monitor each activity individually. Indore has introduced a similar mobile app for its citizens called Safai Mitra. Through the app, data on primary and secondary waste collection is sourced and compiled.
Recently, in August 2018, Coimbatore too launched a mobile application for streamlining its garbage collection process. The mobile application receives information through RFID tags and sensors that are deployed on garbage collection vehicles. Waste collection workers scan the quick response codes placed on different bins and all the data is sent to the application.
Through these smart solutions, ULBs can improve their performance by expediting the waste collection process, ensuring real-time monitoring of vehicles and reducing the time that elapses between rerouting vehicles to waste bins by tracking vehicles that are closest to the point of collection. Further, installation of mobile applications for SWM empowers the end beneficiaries as it enables quick complaint and grievance redressal. Also, reliance on intelligent technologies reduces human intervention thereby eliminating the chance of error.
The way forward
Integration of smart technologies into waste management practices is the way forward for cities to achieve the zero discharge status. Citizens too need to adopt waste segregation at source and use technologies such as mobile applications to expedite waste management processes. Moreover, smart cities that have already launched initiatives must create greater awareness about the successful new methods and technologies to enable greater uptake in other cities.