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Australian Waste-collection Businesses Tag Trash Bins

The EPC Gen 2 RFID tags enable the firms to distribute the receptacles more efficiently to homes and businesses—and, eventually, to monitor the collection of trash and recyclables.
By Dave Friedlos
Aug 18, 2009Radio frequency identification could soon be used to track the collection of rubbish and recycling if a new system being used across Australia proves successful. Mastec, an Australian manufacturer of general refuse, recycling and green waste bins, is trialing the technology's use to identify each receptacle distributed to a home or business.

Local shires and councils currently pay a fee to a waste-management company, regardless of whether that business actually empties local trash bins. As a result, many are mandating contractors to tag bins during distribution, to pair a serial number and address so that in the future, they can be charged only when a waste-collection truck visits and empties a particular bin.

Michael Brixton, Mastec's chief executive, says tracking large numbers of bins—as many as 180,000—across large geographical areas was difficult and could not be achieved with its existing system, which involved manual recording and spreadsheets. "We felt RFID would reduce the amount of labor required due to a reduction in paperwork and double entry of data, as well as increased accuracy of data that would ensure delivery transactions are not lost," he says. "We tested a different RFID system, but found it too restrictive for our needs, so we engaged Datanet to assist in designing and building a custom system that would meet Mastec's needs."

Datanet, an Australian systems integrator, first developed the bin-identification system for Mastec and the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority (NAWMA) in South Australia, to distribute 180,000 bins with on-board ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC tags, and to provide data back to the council, including address details, as well as RFID tag ID and bin serial numbers.

Datanet's chief executive, Neil Clarke, says accurately recording such a large amount of information was a significant challenge. "Initial data was provided by NAWMA from council rating systems in spreadsheets," he explains, "providing address details and garbage-bin requirements for each address."

Mastec also required the system to use its existing handheld computers, Motorola MC70s, which have bar-code-scan capability, Bluetooth and GPRS, but not RFID. So Datanet had to provide a cheap, simple-to-use RFID interrogator that could connect to the MC70s via Bluetooth, and chose Tracient Technology's Padl-R UHF readers.

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