Posting in Design
Paying only for the trash you throw out isn't a new concept, but now the technology has caught up.
Paying only for the trash you throw out isn't a new concept, according to David Wyld, a Southeastern Louisiana University business professor. But now, the technology has caught up. An expert in radio frequency identification (RFID), Wyld says the technology could be used to increase recycling rates -- as consumers are charged for throwing out more trash.
What's the problem you were trying to tackle?
It's both sides of the trash equation. It's not just that we're producing more trash, but we also need to encourage recycling. There is an effort for waste management companies and municipalities to make this a fairer business model in terms of how you appropriately charge customers for the service you're providing. The Pay As You Throw model to charge you based on what you expend in trash is enticing for the service provider, but also for the customer. It is a fairer model in that I'll be charged only for what I throw out. What's the actual volume? This is a merging of technology, business and environmental interests.
What is radio frequency identification (RFID) and how could this solve the problem?
It is a technology better than barcodes. It enables you to identify specific objects, rather than just classes of objects. In a supermarket, for example, a loaf of bread from a particular bakery is going to have a barcode identifying that type of bread. An RFID tag gives you the specific identification for that loaf of bread. You can identify that specific loaf from the time it is made to when it gets into the consumer's hands.
Barcodes would just identify a class of trash cans. With the RFID tag, because it can identify the individual trash can, waste management companies can find out which of their users is putting out that specific can. As the trash can is lifted up and emptied into the garbage truck, the amount of material weight is measured. If you have a standardized can design, you know the weight of the container. It's a simple equation. They can identify that John Smith on September 27 threw out 40 pounds of trash in that specific can.
It gives the service provider business intelligence to charge based on the customer. Rather than a flat fee, they can charge based on the pounds of refuse you throw out. That's Pay As You Throw. You're paying only for what you're throwing out. For the service provider, it's a more intelligent business model. Customers are not abusing the system. There is a built-in penalty. The more I throw out, the more I pay. Hence, the more I recycle, the better off I am because I'm not going to be charged for that additional service.
You mentioned Pay As You Throw. That's not new, right?
It's been around in various forms. My research showed that it had been tried in terms of measuring trash. But it didn't encourage honest behavior on the citizen's part. If I'm being charged for two cans a week and I'm going over that, I'm going to stuff my trash into my neighbor's can. There are communities where you have to buy and use their specific trash bag. They're charging you for the trash service based on the bag price. The company sets the bag price high enough to drive revenue from that model. If I'm the consumer, I'm going to stuff those things as full as possible. Pay As You Throw makes sense, but the technology had to get to a price point to where it was practical.
What's next for this project?
I'm in contact with companies that are interested in this. There's a lot of interest in Europe, more so than the United States. If local governments mandate its use, then naturally there's going to be a much faster forced uptake of this. On the recycling end, it's very entrepreneurial in terms of rewarding citizens for positive environmental behavior. There are a lot of avenues and creative things being done. In two to three years, we're going to see much wider applications of ideas like this, not just in waste management but a lot of other facets of our lives.
Read Wyld's blog.
Photo: David Wyld
Oct 12, 2011
right, instead of looking for a better ways of processing trash , lets just charge more for the same service and do nothing.... do you think you can make your trash smaller? everybody have a sertanin ammount of things to through away. we need to find a better way to process the trash in extract all recicables from it at the point of processing not at the curb. granted it would help if we as people segregate an obviosly recycable items from other trash, but that is not always possible. and the current system does not make it easy. Just recently, I have droped a perfectly recycable aluminum case from PC (case only stripped of any electronic components so just alluminum and some plastic) into recycle bin. it was not picked up. infact the whole bin was not picked up, glass and all. WHY? I put it out twice in a row to let them pick it up. NOTHING. so in the trash it gose.
A lot of material is light and takes up lots of space. Is that really really helping the landfill situation to charge by weight instead of volume? Weighing the can is at best an inexact measurement, assuming that everyone throws away similar stuff. There is no substitute for education and making recycling easy.
I would say that paper and cardboard make up the majority of recycled items, followed by Plastics. John in Ks
Millions of Americans living in our largest cities do so in apartment buildings, where we all share a common trash bin/shute. I'm sure that the building which I am moving into pays a fee to a private hauler. I guess you might consider that "pay as you throw". I think we are looking at this problem from only a couple of angles. When I was a child growing up in NYC, all residential trash (in apartment buildings) was incinerated. Granted, absent today's technology for cleaning the gases and soot produced by this approach left us with filthy air. What it did not leave us with is mountains (orders of magnitude) of trash and the accompanying mice, rats and roaches we have today as well as little room left to dispose of the remains. Perhaps we should be looking at either very efficient (highly regulated) incinerators in apartment buildings and/or trash to energy plants a short haul from origination as a means of disposal. Trying to figure out punitive and discriminatory incentives for getting people to dispose of their trash in a very inefficient system is simply wrong minded. Time for a reality check. Think outside the box.
Every where I have lived, recycling has not been a service provided by the waste management company. I'm not going to drive an hour to the closest recycling facility. So, waste management services need to be required to provide recycling services if the arguments of this article are to be considered valid.
Now they will know who throws away what to a certain extent. Then what, the garbage police show up at your door for an explanation? This has the potential for just such a scenario. No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist and don't wear tin hats, so don't go there. :=) I received a brochure from my garbage service yesterday (which they could have included with the bill, but they didn't thereby costing more). They want me to pay $8.00 extra to recycle. Ah, no. I don't think so. The electric company also wants to charge $6.00 extra for electricity from a "green" source. Ummm, no. I'm on a fixed income. When I lived in Sacramento, they gave me three cans, one for recycling which I used as they didn't charge extra. They also charged more for larger trash cans. I had the mid-size and if my neighbors had extra trash, I let then fill mine up as they let me use theirs when needed. Now, I take aluminum cans to a nearby recycler and get paid for them. They don't take glass so in the trash it goes. They also had a "put your junk in the street and we'll pick it up free" day twice a year. The Russians would come around scavenging. The city frowned on such activity, but I didn't care. I remember putting out some stuff and sure enough, some Russians came by and asked if they could take it. I said they could. They took it all. I used to take glass to the recycler in California until they wanted me to separate the glass by color. I already had three recycle bins in the garage, I was not about to increase it to six or seven. We left California shortly thereafter (not over this, but for a host of other reasons). Bottom line: If they make recycling worth my while, I'll do it. If they make it difficult and costly, forget it.
Isn't this just a more sophisticated version of something like a 5 cent deposit on a glass bottle? As the deposit has proven, people still throw the stuff out no matter what. And at least the deposit on the recyclables encourages some people to go find and cash in what other people still just throw out just about anywhere.
I believe that recycling and striving to be more green has more to do with saving the earth???s resources and creating a cleaner, safer environment then it has to do with the economy. Although, isn???t it great that Austin created jobs when they began to recycle?
IF it would be decided to use RFID and weigh individual cans THEN the trucks would require periodic (usually every six months) certification of the weighing mechanism to ensure the public that they are being accurately charged. This is yet another added expense and the only real benefit I can see is to the designer/provided of the RFID device and its support equipment. The best program is one that keeps it simple - the three can size will eventually work when the initial equipment cost has been recovered. I don't see using your neighbors can for any excess being a concern as you most likely (or should) know your neighbors and obtain their permission for said use.
We also have a choice of 3 sizes of city-supplied cans, for ordinary garbage. It's a reasonable compromise between 1-size-fits-all & pay-as-you-throw. There's little incentive for bad behavior. City supplied cans that trucks pick up like dumpsters was inevitable because of labor costs. Recycling was inevitable too. Even though it currently costs more than it brings in because of the low prices for recycled materials, it reduces the volume of garbage going into landfills.
Any time someone has something heavy to throw in the trash, they will throw it on the side of the road or in someone's dumpster. It happens now with any waste that the collector's leave behind. It gets dumped somewhere else. People are not going to pay extra to get rid of heavy things. Stop punishing the little people. Manufacturers need to use less packaging and the trash handlers need to learn how to process more effectively to the point where there are no landfills. Weighing poor people's trash cans is not the answer.
Austin, Texas has Pay as You Throw. We also have single stream curbside recycling. Pay as you throw means that the city issued every household a city-owned trash can, and bougt a new fleet of garbage truck that pick up these trash cans and dump their contents. This was at a tremedous cost to the city, and pretty much put private trash cans out of business. the did reduce the garbage trudk crew from 2 to 3, but there was no net savings (see below). I now have a trash can with a City of Austin serial nmuber on it. The city issues three sizes of trash cans, and you pay based on the size of your can. The city requires that your trash can be closed, and will not pick up any bagged trash not in the can unless it has a $2 sticker on it. Can someone get a small can and put their trash in their neighbor's can? I guess, as long as the neighbors' trash can isn't full and you don't get caught. Still you would only save about $3 a month. People in my neighborhood are not so callous; I don't worry about that. I have a medium sized can, and rarely fill it completely. Recyling? Again, we have COA issued serial numbered recyling bins and a COA issued s/n recycling trash can, and a new fleet of recycling trucks that have a robot arm to pick up the recylcing can and dump its contents into the truck, again at a cost of millions of dollars. I guess they took that third person from the garbage truck and put him in the recylcing truck so there was not net savings in pick-up personnel costs. We also had to lease recycling storage facilities, hire sorting personnel to sort paper, plastic, metal, etc, and find a way to transport the recycled materials. The City of Austin loses millions of dollars a year on our recycling program, paid for by the taxpayers and homeowners in Austin (people who actually work for a living), but we're GREEEEN. Personally, I hate throwin away someting that can be reused. I love recycling. Before the city instituted this program, I save all my cans, cardboard, paper and ceral boxes, and took it to a private recycler in my pickup, whereupon they would pay me for my efforts. The COA has now denied me this "beer money" (I don't drink beer). I hate going to fast food places, especially the Austin only places, that serve their food and drink in recyclable materials but don't provide a way to recycle them. WTH? Freebird's goes through tons of aluminum foil, and it all goes into the garbage.
The last I heard only 20% of people are willing to save the earth at the cost of their pocket book. So, no, for most people recycling is not about saving the earth. It has to be economical and simple, or it's just not going to happen.