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N.J. Trash Collector Uses RFID to Pay Customers Who Recycle

To improve recycling rates, Sanico has installed readers on its collection trucks and is providing participating customers with bins fitted with passive EPC UHF tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 15, 2013

Sanico, a provider of recycling and garbage-collection services in northwestern New Jersey, has seen a rise in the recycling rates of its customers, thanks to the use of a radio frequency identification system that rewards participating residents by reducing their waste-removal bill. The company is employing an Aviant Systems solution consisting of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags affixed to recycling canisters, a reader on each of its recyclables collection trucks, and an onboard computer that interprets read data and then forwards that information to Aviant's server via a cellular connection.

Sanico picks up trash (both recyclable and non-recyclable) from approximately 15,000 residences throughout the state's Warren, Sussex and Hunterdon counties. While the money it receives for bottles and cans is only enough to cover Sanico's cost of collecting and delivering those recyclable materials to a buyer, the firm is able to make a small profit by selling paper, typically at a rate of $70 to $80 per ton. When collecting recyclables, Sanico separates paper from the bottles and cans, and then delivers the materials to buyers. This practice differs from the single-stream recycling model, used in many communities, by which all paper, plastic and glass are commingled during the collection process and are sold to at a single location, known as an intermediate process facility (IPF), which sorts the various materials. Selling recyclables to an IPF tends to result in the hauling company not being paid for any of the materials. That's because the receiving IPF must pay personnel to hand-sort the materials.

Installed within each of Sanico's collection trucks is an Impinj Speedway Revolution RFID reader and a computer that interprets read data and forwards it to Aviant's server via a cellular connection.
Sanico provides its customers with two recycling bins: one for paper, the other for metal cans and plastic and glass bottles. The company wanted to encourage customers to recycle more, and to share in the resultant savings. Jim Smith, Sanico's general manager and founder, knew Aviant Systems' president, Henry Bonnell, and began discussing with him several years ago about how RFID technology might enable him to track when each customer recycles, and to then reward that resident accordingly. Although some larger businesses provide rewards in the form of coupons that users can access online (see RFID Helps Reward Consumers for Recycling), Smith sought to make the rewards more direct, by simply paying the customers about 25 cents for each recycling bin put out for pick-up.

Initially, Sanico installed the Aviant Systems solution on two of its seven trucks and provided RFID labels on recycling bins for some customers, and then tested the technology for about one year. The system was working well, the company reports, so during the past few months, Sanico installed readers on all seven vehicles. It soon plans to provide RFID-tagged bins to all interested customers. Currently, the RFID-based bins have been offered to around 5,000 of the company's 15,000 customers, about 2,000 of whom have signed on to the RFID-based recycling program to date.

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