Airports are some of the busiest places in the world. Considering how hundreds of thousands of people from everywhere around the world visit the airport, it produces tonnes of trash on a daily basis. This is why airport recycling can be a gigantic step towards a green future. To become a zero waste facility, airports must focus on maximizing recycling and recovery and minimizing waste generated onsite.
Pivoting from the traditional landfill-centric system requires airports to make strategic changes around the facility. The US government recently announced a $1 billion grant to 85 airports across the country. The grant is supposed to help airports meet the post-pandemic passenger demand and deal with the uptick in delayed and canceled flights. This initiative will go to expand terminal capacity, provide access to individuals with disabilities, and sustainability among others.
In this article, we will discuss zero waste and its importance, the problem with airport recycling, and its potential solutions.
How Much Waste Do Airports Generate?
With millions of travelers visiting the airports every day, the airports must generate a ton load of waste, but the question is exactly how much waste do airports generate?
The San Francisco Airport (SFO) is one of the busiest and largest airports in the United States. Annually, it generates about 14,000 tons of material waste from which about 28 million pounds are recyclables and compostable materials. An average guest at the San Francisco Airport generates about half a pound of trash, and the numbers are not much different for other airports.
To bring about change, airports need to set a zero waste goal and work towards a green future. The San Francisco Airport set out to become the world’s first zero waste airport. It means that the airport needs to divert at least 90 percent of the generated waste away from landfills and incinerators.
Although we discussed the SFO in detail, it’s not the only airport to have a zero waste goal. More airports are jumping into the same goal such as Charlotte Douglas Airport (North Carolina, USA) and Gatwick Airport (London). To understand why so many airports are making such significant changes, we need to understand what zero waste is, the problem with airport recycling, and its solution.
What is Zero Waste?
The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) defines zero waste as,
“Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
— Zero Waste International Alliance
The next question is, why achieving the zero waste goal is important. The zero waste approach starts from the very top i.e. manufacturing (manufacturing fewer goods) to the very bottom, i.e. reducing waste that goes into the landfills.
The Problem with Airport Recycling
A waste audit of the San Francisco Airport revealed that despite their efforts to recycle and reduce waste, a great deal of recyclable and compostable items were still ending up in the bin headed for the landfills. The whole point of the three-bin system fails if the trash consistently went into the wrong bin.
Did you know? Less than 35% of what goes into recycling bins actually ends up being recycled. That is because people are still unsure about what goes into which bin. It all starts with educating the user, but that is a huge challenge for a large facility welcoming people that come and go every hour of the day. The problem worsens when you have people traveling from everywhere around the world and throwing garbage away without much of a second thought.
For the team at SFO to succeed at reaching their zero waste goal, they need to be able to efficiently sort the trash.
The Step-by-Step Approach to Establishing an Airport Recycling Program
To help airport managers create a more environmentally-friendly waste operation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed a ten-step guide to airport recycling.
Step 1: Obtain the upper management commitment Step 2: Create a green team Step 3: Identify types and sources of waste through a waste audit Step 4: Assess and evaluate your current waste programs and collection contracts Step 5: Develop a waste management plan Step 6: Implement educational programs for the facility’s public and staff Step 7: Implement sustainability and zero waste technologies Step 8: Measure performance and refine the plan over time Step 9: Promote successes Step 10: Expand the recycling program further
The Ultimate Solution to Airport Recycling
An innovative and complete solution to airport recycling is smart bins that divert at the point of disposal while educating the transient population.
We never think twice before throwing away that disposable water bottle or coffee cup that we grabbed on the way. So, we can’t expect people to think twice about trash when they’re already late for their flight. To combat the issue, we need something that automatically sorts trash as soon as it goes into the bin and before it can contaminate other items.
A smart recycling bin like TrashBot is a bin that leverages technologies like AI, computer vision, smart sensors, and robotics to sort trash quickly and more efficiently. It’s the ideal solution for the airport recycling problem because the management will no longer be relying on the travelers to put trash in the right can. Rather, the user can dispose of their item, and the smart recycling bin will automatically sort it into the right bin inside.
Here’s how a smart recycling bin works:
As soon as an item lands in the sensor chamber, it will automatically detect and recognize it through AI and machine learning.
The recycling bin will divert the item into the corresponding bin (recycling and/or organic) and send the contaminated items into the landfill.
The bin will also monitor its internal capacity and notify (via SMS or email) the custodial team when it’s full.
Airport Recycling with Smart Bins
With the glaciers melting, wildfires erupting, and temperatures rising around the world, climate change is becoming more and more real every day. A smart recycling bin can be a game-changing instrument that has the potential to solve the airport recycling problem. A smart bin like TrashBot can sort trash three times more accurately than humans and keeps improving gradually. It offers features such as AI-powered trash sorting, an analytics dashboard, mobility, and a built-in display that make both recycling and recycling education easier.
When you grab a bite on your way home, do you ever pay attention to what you throw away? In today’s fast-paced world, we rarely stop and think about everything we’re throwing away. Statistics show that most of the trash that companies pay to throw away into landfills can be recycled or reused.
Waste audits are expensive and if they make you think whether they’re a waste of money, then you’re not alone. Waste audits look expensive but in the long run, they can help you save a lot of money and resources. It’s a potential revenue-making and savings opportunity that businesses often overlook.
In this article, we will discuss why you need a waste audit, the benefits of a waste audit, and how a waste audit helps companies save money and reach the ultimate zero waste goal.
What Exactly is a Waste Audit?
A waste audit is a process of determining the amount and types of waste produced by a large facility. It uncovers inefficient waste management practices and helps companies reach the zero waste goal by minimizing waste that goes into the landfills via reusing and recycling.
Why Do We Need a Waste Audit?
A study on commercial building waste showed that the waste from most buildings ended up in landfills instead of a recycling or compostable organic stream. An astonishing 62% of waste thrown away is recyclable or reusable. The remaining 38% consists of residuals – material that cannot be recycled or reused.
Here’s what a general waste stream of a commercial building looks like:
< 1% Electronic Waste
While a general waste stream looks like that, the waste stream of your company will be a little different. Waste audits help you get customized and accurate data about your company’s waste stream and find ways to optimize it.
Waste Audits are just a snapshot of the problem. Multiple factors can change the results of a waste audit. For example, what time of year are you conducting the audit? If it’s winter, then you’re likely to find lots of coffee (and other warm drink) paper and bio-compostable cups. While in summer, you’ll see a lot of water and juice bottles.
Finally, waste audits are generally all-encompassing but, large facilities tend to have vastly different diversion rates across different zones due to concessionaires. This makes generalizations inaccurate and you end up with erroneous results. In large facilities like airports, stadiums, and hospitals, waste audits can be especially helpful due to the transient nature of visitors.
Benefits of Waste Audit
A waste audit allows organizations to find value in what they are about to throw away. There are multiple benefits to a waste audit, but here are the top four ways that a waste audit can help your organization.
Reduce Money Spent on Waste Management
Due to inefficient waste management practices, companies spend a lot of money throwing away waste that can be reused or recycled. Once you’ve found the areas for improvement, it’s just a matter of taking the right actions to improve your waste management practices.
Make Data-driven Decisions
By conducting a waste audit, you can start working with data instead of guessing.For example, if the audit results show that recyclables are ending up in the trash, then you can work on refining the recycling program and promoting recycling education.
You can save money via a waste audit by unlocking the potential within your trash. By reducing what ends up in landfills, you’re not just saving the environment but also reducing the waste hauling fee, and the recyclables may have value on the market.
You cannot improve without measuring success. A waste audit helps you set up a benchmark and baseline every year. That way, you can measure the effectiveness of your recycling programs and set new targets.
Meet Certification Standards
By conducting waste audits, you can meet the requirements for certification standards such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). You can also use the data from the waste audit to fulfill requirements for regulatory compliance and reporting purposes such as CSR (corporate social responsibility) or GRI (global reporting initiative).
How Waste Audit Saves Money
Do you know how much waste one person produces per day? According to EPA, 4.9 pounds. In total, about 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) were generated in 2018. Out of the 292.4 million tons of MSW, only 69 million were recycled and 25 million were composted. An extra 17.7 million tons of food were managed by other methods and the rest went right into the landfills.
Waste audits help companies save money and resources by finding opportunities within the waste stream. Generally, we throw away items without realizing their full potential and end up contributing more and more to the landfills. By looking into the waste audit data, you can find potential savings and revenue-making opportunities. You may also be able to cut down on the waste hauling fees and find value for your recyclables and reusable items in the market.
Here are a few ways that a waste audit helped companies save money:
Uncover potential revenue streams.
Find potential savings opportunities
Reduce waste hauling costs
Reusing and recycling items instead of buying new
Cut down on unnecessary waste items
Zero Waste – The Ultimate Goal behind Waste Audits
Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing – the zero waste goal. It refers to the conservation of all resources by efficiently managing production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all materials. Companies like Microsoft and Google are pursuing the zero waste goal to make the world a better place for generations to come.
We discussed how a waste audit, in itself, is expensive, but the value it brings to the business is long-lasting. However, the value it brings to the planet by reducing the amount of trash that goes into the landfills is even more important. About 91 percent of plastic is never recycled and it takes anywhere from decades to centuries to break down in oceans or landfills. Plastic bags take about 20 years to decompose and bottles take about 450 years.
By reducing the amount of waste a company is producing, you can find ways to reuse the product or recycle it. That way, fewer items end up in the landfills and you can lead a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
The Problem with Traditional Waste Audits
The problem with traditional waste audits is that it’s a time-consuming process and the audit data is generic and lacks critical details. Each step requires considerable time, resources, and planning. You assemble a team, set a date, determine waste categories, gather tools, sort the trash, and analyze the results. However, completing a waste audit means asking the next question of how to measure and validate success. Since waste audits are long and expensive, you can’t go about having those very often.
Technology is changing the world for the better and conducting a traditional waste audit means actually digging through the trash, which doesn’t give you real-time data. For efficient waste management, you need audits that can give you real-time data within minutes and that’s where TrashBot comes in.
TrashBot is a smart recycling bin that sorts waste up to 300% more accurately than humans. With TrashBot, all that goes into each one of your bins are at your disposal all the time. Using a unique analytics platform, you can select which TrashBots’ data you’d like to view and see user deposit minutes. The data is updated every fifteen minutes. There’s no need to speculate anymore, as the data tells you the full story, whenever you want.
Despite current efforts to get the public educated on recycling, not much is implemented in real life. According to EPA, 292.4 million tons of solid waste were produced in 2018 in the USA, meaning that each person produced 4.9 pounds of municipal solid waste every day. Contributing to a better world through sustainability programs should be a priority in any public space. Nevertheless, the recycling and composting aspects are often ignored, especially in large facilities. Public spaces have a greater since airports, hospitals, and stadiums often have the biggest challenge getting their visitors to recycle correctly.
The ultimate Zero Waste goal is to reduce everyday waste through recycling and waste diversion efforts. Moreover, composting techniques can also help in decarbonization. Therefore, facility leaders should start introducing a Zero Waste vision by introducing recycling education programs.
Recycling programs will help the earth in breathing in a better way. According to RTS, recycling one single aluminum tin can supply power to television for 3 hours. Nevertheless, public facility users are not aware of recycling dos and dont’s; an accessible recycling education to all and convenience to the public can help minimize waste landfills and ensure recycling ROI. This article is the first step to getting you well-versed in recycling and developing an effective recycling education program.
1. Why is recycling education so important?
Recycling education is important for any public space and workplace as it would help the reducing a company’s environmental impact and make this world a better place for the next generations.
Typically, people have a general idea about recycling, but despite their best intentions, recycling rules can be confusing, especially in public spaces where people are in a hurry and discard their waste without a second thought. Nonetheless, recycling education directly helps decarbonize and control climate change by reducing waste and applying waste diversion strategies.
2. The cost of waste: Why to invest in recycling education
Nobody can neglect the importance of recycling education, but people usually have limited knowledge about recycling and they end up strangled in the wish cycle. Therefore, recycling education should be spread accurately in your facility. Companies can benefit from investing in recycling education, such as being perceived as an environmental innovator, reducing the cost of waste management, developing a better perception from customers, getting a return on investment in recycling, and a sustainable green environment.
3. The 5 principles of recycling in the workplace
Recycling education is incomplete without 5 principles: reduce, reuse, repair, rot and recycle. Recycling education is not only about recycling the waste but also about not creating or minimizing the waste through different techniques.
Reduce: Don’t create waste unless necessary, for example, switching to a smart recycling bin with fullness indication so your custodial team uses just the necessary trash bags.
Reuse: Reusable items should be used before disposing of or recycling them. Get your maintenance team to improve the lifetime of your facility’s equipment and assets.
Repair: Repair items instead of disposing of them or buying new ones. This way, expenses will be decreased, and no more waste will be generated.
Rot: Your facility’s top waste items can be switched for compostable and eco-friendly alternatives. Public spaces will be greener, and landfill waste can be drastically reduced through this initiative.
Recycle: The key to separating recyclables from landfill waste is an effective waste diversion. Usually, less than 35% of the waste ends up being recycled, but with new recycling technologies such as TrashBot, on-site sorting can be 300% more accurate than just relying on your public’s judgment.
These recycling principles require leaders to launch recycling education programs for people who want to understand the true meaning of recycling education. Recycling education programs will modify the living styles of the attendants, and they will be aware of how to practice recycling even in public spaces.
4. The impact of a Recycling Education Program
Did you know coffee cups are not recyclable? Most people don’t, and in one year Americans use 50 billion coffee cups per year. Educational programs play a huge part in effective recycling as recycling rules are complex and vary based on location, which results in user confusion when throwing items away. In facilities with transient populations, this leads to large-scale contamination, low recycling yields, and poor diversion.
The goal of a Recycling Education Program is to get the user involved in recycling while eliminating the thinking of wish-cycling. Moreover, the user understands how a simple aluminum can help improve the whole ecosystem.
5. Recycling education program’s importance
Yes, recycling education programs may require a significant investment, but the impact these programs cause on attendants is ever-lasting. The Return on Investment (ROI) on recycling education programs can help companies change their recycling behavior. Meaning that companies can benefit from a variety of sources such as buying recycled products reducing the cost, selling used or refurbished products profits the companies, and more importantly, recycling businesses would flourish and can help in meeting recycling commitments.
Moreover, recycling education programs help reduce the cost of disposing of waste and lower the contamination rates by gaining knowledge about recyclables and compostables. Through new recycling technologies such as Trashbot, companies are able to get on-demand waste audits, fullness indication alerts, and waste diversion analytics.
6. Do it for the Earth
The unawareness of recycling education has caused many devastating impacts on the climate change. Today, most recycling bins’ contents end up in landfills since people are still uncertain when depositing an item in a recycling bin. Recycling education programs should be developed, implemented, and evaluated to generate a substantial environmental impact.
Over the last two decades, artificial intelligence has remained a leading technology trend. In nearly all major industries from healthcare to advertising, AI is revolutionilizing the world and making it a better place. We encounter AI every day, in small everyday objects like Roomba to avoid obstacles to bigger use cases such as medical imaging and diagnosis. Another industry where AI can do wonders is waste management.
According to the World Bank, annual waste management is expected to rise by 73% to about 3.88 billion tonnes from 2020 to 2050.
In 2022, waste management is no longer an issue of tomorrow. Climate change is impacting the world at a rapid pace and the best way we can bring change is through optimal waste management. To build a sustainable future for ourselves and our coming generations, it’s vital to manage waste efficiently. However, effective waste management is highly dependent on how much people know about waste management and are willing to put in an effort.
In this article, we will discuss how AI is revolutionizing waste management via technologies such as MRF (material recovery facility) and smart bins.
AI in Waste Management
We hear about exciting technologies like self-driving cars and facial recognition, but there’s more to AI than that. Waste management in most countries is a manual process. Even in developed countries, at least part of the waste management process is manual.
We are producing more and more waste every year. According to the EPA, the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018 was 292.4 million tons, which is almost 23.7 million tons more than the amount generated in 2017.
AI is changing the very way we collect, transport, and sort all types of waste from medical waste to biohazard waste. Robotics coupled with AI and machine learning have improves the quality of waste management process as it becomes more and more complex, and the health conditions for workers.
There are two ways we are using AI in waste management, smart recycling bins and material recovery facility (MRF). We will discuss each approach in detail below.
Smart Recycling Bins
A smart recycling bin monitors and sorts waste at the time of disposal. It uses AI (artificial intelligence), computer vision, robotics, and machine learning to efficiently and accurately sort waste.
The advantage of using a smart bin is that it sports garbage immediately after disposal which leads to minimal or no contamination. It’s designed mainly for places where people dispose of waste without a second thought. That includes commercial buildings, hospitals, stadiums, airports, and high-traffic areas.
How Smart Recycling Bins Work
Here’s how an AI waste management system generally works:
Garbage is disposed into the bins which are scanned via cameras and the information is sent to the servers.
The system uses AI and computer vision to sort waste into various categories.
With the help of robotic automation, the waste is put into its respective bin.
Whenever the bin is full, it sends a notification to the user that it’s ready to be emptied.
Material Recovery Facility
A material recovery facility (MRF) is a plant where single-stream recycling materials are separated and prepared to be sold to end-users. The facility sports a wide array of recyclables including but not limited to plastics, paper, cardboard (OCC), metal, glass, etc.
There are two primary types of material recovery facility, clean and dirty. In a clean MRF, only residential or commercial single-stream recyclables are processed while in a dirty MRF, residential or commercial trash is processed in the hopes of capturing recyclables that have incorrectly been thrown away with the regular trash.
How Material Recovery Facilities Work
Here’s how a material recovery facility work:
Collection trucks carry waste and drop it off to a facility.
Materials are moved to a pre-sorting station via conveyer belts. There, the non-recyclable items, hazardous materials, and contaminants like plastic bags are removed and sent to a landfill or incinerator.
Remaining items continue moving forward on the conveyer belt. On the way, cardboards are separated from smaller items like jars and paper.
Papers are separated via blowing air and are manually processed along with cardboard.
Metals are separated via electromagnets and eddy current separators from plastics and glass.
Glasses are crushed into cullets for easier transportation.
Infrared technology is used to separate plastic by polymer types and sent it to landfills or incinerators.
The separated materials are sent to the facility’s shipping dock to be sold to manufacturers.
Smart Bin Systems Vs. Material Recovery Facility
While the goal of both smart bins and MRFs is to reduce waste that goes into landfills and improve reusability, each approach has certain advantages over the other. We will outline some of the main differences in the table below.
Smart Recycling Bins
Material Recovery Facility
Waste is sorted as soon as it is dumpled.
Single-stream recycling materials from the curbside recycling bins are collected and resorted.
Uses AI and computer vision, which means up to 97% accuracy.
High accuracy rates due to the use of AI and ML.
Almost no human intervention from the very beginning.
Sorts and processes materials recycled by humans leaving room for human error.
Garbage Collection frequency
Bins send a notification once they are full and are ready to be emptied.
Garbage is collected regularly from the curbside.
Ease of Use
Very easy to use and perfect solution for busy areas.
Materials are collected from recycling bins and sent to the facility.
The major reason why smart recycling bins are more effective compared to MRFs is the lack of human intervention. Humans, despite their best intentions often become the biggest barriers to recycling. Due to a gap in recycling education, people often throw away oily and greasy containers into the recycling bins. Not only are those non-recyclables, but they also end up contaminating the rest of the garbage in the bin. Smart bins eliminate the need by overtaking garbage sorting at the very time of disposal. This makes waste management faster, more accurate, and effective.
How to Get Started with AI Waste Management
We often hear about AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics in modern technology and how it’s changing the world for the better. Waste management is another area where AI and robotics are trying to make the world a better place. With AI recycling bins such as TrashBot, you can start your struggle against global warming and climate change. TrashBot is an excellent solution for businesses where everyone is busy and cannot sort the garbage upon disposal. It uses AI and computer vision to sort and separate materials upon disposal with up to 95% accuracy.
The technology startup unveils new visual identity and the next generation of TrashBot Zero
CleanRobotics has undergone a complete brand refresh. Driven by the launch of the next generation of their flagship product, TrashBot Zero, they are entering a new chapter focused on clean data to empower a zero-waste future.
“We’re so excited about the latest TrashBot Zero,” said Charles Yhap, CleanRobotics’ CEO. “As we move to the next phase of the company’s growth, we’re updating our look and feel to align with the values that drive us. People come to us for the innovative technologies we’ve built around zero waste and a circular economy; But stay for the data-driven insights we can provide to advance recycling and composting programs.”
CleanRobotics applies innovative AI and robotic solutions to revolutionize recycling and other persistent environmental problems. The TrashBot smart bin has been launched internationally in airports, hospitals, and several high-traffic facilities.
About the rebrand
The new branding is rooted in the company’s values for innovation, zero waste, recycling, and data-driven user education. CleanRobotics looks to position itself as a strong technology parent brand anticipating future innovations in addition to TrashBot.
About TrashBot Zero
TrashBot is a smart bin that ensures the capture of recyclable materials, improves on-site and user-facing waste diversion 300% more accurately than human beings.
The new generation of TrashBot Zero features a sleek exterior design with a robust analytics dashboard, giving facilities unprecedented data into their waste and custodial operations. Made in America with recyclable materials, TrashBot Zero is here to change the way facilities solve for zero-waste.
“With the newest generation of TrashBot Zero and CleanRobotics analytics, we’re going to help organizations achieve waste sustainability goals thought unattainable just years ago.” said co-founder and VP of Engineering Tanner Cook.
To learn more about TrashBot Zero, visit www.cleanrobotics.com.