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RFID Tracks Recycling Progress in Charleston County

By installing Sonrai Systems' UHF RFID system on its new single-stream recycling carts, as well as on its trucks, the county can now measure the growth of recycling.
By Claire Swedberg
In early 2011, Kessler Consulting set up a pilot program using a solution provided by Sonrai Systems, allowing Charleston County to employ RFID technology for greater visibility of its disposal pick-up operations. The county identified five neighborhoods of differing demographics, with a total of approximately 5,000 homes, then provided each household with a wheeled recycling cart with a Gen 2 UHF RFID tag from Intermec embedded in its handle.

Each tag stores a unique ID number that is then linked to the cart's serial (bar-code) number in software provided by Sonrai, and also stored on that company's database, to be accessed by such authorized parties as the county's management team. When a cart is assigned to a particular household, that customer's address is input into the system, to be linked to the cart's ID and serial numbers.

Three trucks were equipped with Intermec CV30 onboard computers, wired to an Intermec IV7 reader.
Three trucks were equipped with Intermec CV30 onboard computers, wired to an Intermec IV7 reader, says Mike Nichols, Intermec's RFID director. The interrogator has two antennas—one mounted on the lifting arm, and another on the hopper into which the carts are emptied.

Each time that a truck picks up a cart, the reader captures the unique ID number of that cart's tag, then forwards that information via a GPRS cellular connection to the hosted, Web-based server, where the Sonrai software links the ID with the container's address and stores data indicating that the container has been picked up. When the cart is then lifted above the hopper and emptied, the second antenna enables a subsequent reading, thereby confirming that the cart was, in fact, emptied—as opposed to being, for instance, passed by a recycling truck but not actually emptied.

Mike Nichols
What's more, the drivers can use the CV30 computer as a method for reporting problems during the route. For example, Romano says, he or she can select a specific prompt to indicate if a particular cart is showing signs of damage, or if there is cardboard piled by that cart, requiring the staff to exit the truck and manually place the material within the vehicle.

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