It has taken years, decades even, to organise separate collection of household waste throughout most of Europe. And out-of-home collection is still in its infancy. Yet, by 2022, out-of-home collection could have caught up with household collection when it comes to achieving separate collection rates thanks to smart bins.
Smart bins being piloted today are taught to recognise all kinds of products and already reach more than satisfactory sorting rates (60% accuracy in worst cases, 95% in good conditions). And they are getting better all the time… fast. A casual look at any public set of sorting bins would indicate that us humans fare much worse at this task.
The deployment of smart bins will require investments to be made across Europe. But these are small in comparison to the clean-up costs already incurred, and Europe will have to make significant infrastructure investments to reach its stated circular economy objectives anyways.
If one smart bin costs around €4,000 and an average of one bin per 400 citizens needs to be deployed for effective collection rates to be achieved, that represents an investment of around €10 million for a medium-sized city of one million inhabitants like Brussels.
Smart bins may soon help tackle the separate collection challenge for greater recycling of on-the-go packaging, but another issue remains: getting consumers to bring their used items to the collection points. Can digitalisation help on that front too? That’s what we will look at next week.