Sorting Treasures from Trash

“We’ve gone through the first phase of the project, developing and placing tags on waste receptacles,” says Jiner, “and we’re now finishing the second phase of reader and antenna placement on hauling trucks.”

The program will allow the municipality to monitor regular trash and recyclable material. The plan is to track the trash cans and the routes taken by the trucks.

In Pennsylvania the cost of recycling figures out to be about half the cost of sending trash to the landfill. Communities throughout the state are seeking ways to encourage residents to recycle more, while at the same time they work to measure general trash and recyclables. The challenge is identifying, by route, what kind of trash they’re picking up. Currently there is no difference in cost to the consumer for disposal of which type of trash is picked up. The cost difference applies to the municipalities when they go to the dump because landfill fees are so high in the state.

The township in this example asked not be identified because of sensitive political issues surrounding the use of RFID as well as recycling. When finished, this two-year project will be able to offer residents incentives to recycle more. Using RFID, township officials will be able to track types of trash as well as the trucks. Better routing service will be established since some areas of the township have more dense populations, making it possible to know which, or how many trucks to send to particular areas. By collecting more recyclable material the township’s costs are reduced and, in turn, reduced costs can be passed on to the consumer.

In the first phase of the program, 30,000 RFID tags have been placed on three sizes of containers. An innocuous-appearing 4”x2” placard is located behind one of the grippers of the 96-gallon, 64-gallon and 35-gallon-size containers.

The tag, which has an eight-to-10-year life span is protected from direct sunlight with a special laminate. The Kennedy Group married a 915-technology RFID tag (also know as the Alien squiggle), to a placard commonly used in the automotive industry for returnable container applications. The 915-technology tag provides a four-to-eight-foot read range.

Finding the right tag readers and antenna placement on the vehicles represents more challenges. The arms, or tines, that pick up the trash cans and dump them into the truck move in a semi-circle and can interfere with reader and antenna placement.

Another consideration when using RFID to collect data is what is in the can. “We have to be able to read the tag under any condition,” says Jiner, “and that means, just like in a distribution center, liquids or high-density of metals, can cause problems.”

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