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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
The six-month pilot, which launched in January, has provided some valuable information, Ross says. Even without the RFID system, Charleston County knows that the tonnage pounds of recycling have increased over the past six months, by approximately 117 percent. RFID also enables the county to determine that participation has risen from 35 percent of households, up to 70 percent—and it also knows which homes have not participated.

According to Ross, the county can now target those homes or neighborhoods with educational materials, and it can use the data for other purposes as well, such as determining when a driver will require help on his or her route before it becomes a concern. Typically, Romano says, those in waste-management dispatch do not learn about a problem on a route until mid-afternoon, at which time it may be too late to address the issue.

Don Ross
For example, if a truck falls behind on its schedule, it may be too late at, say, 3:00 p.m. to call in another vehicle to assist. However, with the RFID system, the county's management team can view on the server when a truck is falling behind, based on the number of carts that have been emptied (contrasted with the number of carts on that vehicle's route), or based on the address at which the cart is expected to be, thereby indicating the truck's current location.

Charleston County is now installing the solution throughout its entire operation, with a second group of 5,000 homes to be added by Oct. 1, 2011, and another 30,000 in the first quarter of 2012. Altogether, the county has 140,000 customers, all of whom will eventually use the new single-stream, RFID-enabled system. The county is adopting the solution in stages, however, in order to allow its recycling-center infrastructure to be retrofitted to accommodate the additional materials. Eventually, Ross says, all 12 to 15 trucks that the county will operate—the number of vehicles may increase to accommodate the higher recycling volumes—will also be equipped with RFID readers.

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