Barbados Cleans Up With RFID

By Claire Swedberg

The nation's Sanitation Service Authority has launched an RFID-based solution to manage the collection of household waste, with the goal of becoming the cleanest Caribbean island.

Barbados'  Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) is preparing the deployment of a technology-based solution for solid waste management that automates the collection of household waste and recycling from 100,000 households. The system, which leverages technology provided by  ProSource, is intended to improve the efficiency and reliability of waste collection, the agency reports, as well as ensure a cleaner island with lower-cost waste management and optimized routes.

As part of the solution, which is scheduled to be taken live this summer, each household is being provided with a 65-gallon roll-out cart for waste. Users will also receive an 18-gallon bin to be used for commingled recycling. Each comes equipped with a UHF RFID tag sticker. To automatically read those tags, waste-management trucks are equipped with RFID readers. The bins, RFID hardware and cloud-based software for managing the collected data are supplied by Prosource's partner,  Rehrig Pacific.

David Tomlinson

Barbados is an eastern Caribbean independent island nation and is among the world's most densely populated islands, with a population of almost 300,000. The government has emphasized efforts to keep the island clean in order to protect its waters and reefs, and to ensure tourism and a healthy lifestyle for its permanent residents. That means it is making some changes, including to its waste-management process. Traditionally, trash collection in Barbados had been a manual process that was unpredictable. There was no recycling pickup—residents had to deliver plastic or glass items directly to the recycling center, resulting in most containers not being recycled.

With regard to general trash, the nation has been challenged with unreliable waste collection as well. Individuals used a variety of waste bins and did not know exactly when they would be picked up. Many of the bins lacked lids, so while they sat on the street waiting for a truck, sometimes for days at a time, the contents could be scattered by vermin, wildlife or weather. The resulting litter, as well as ash from the recently erupted La Soufrière volcano, has left the streets unclean, which has had serious impacts on residents' health and well-being. Therefore, the Barbadian government has thrown down the gauntlet for making improvements to the island that would benefit tourism.

The nation sought a modern technology-based solution for waste management that would make it one of the cleanest islands, according to David Tomlinson, ProSource's director. The Barbadian company provides technology for the residential, commercial and industrial waste sector throughout the Caribbean region. Last year, the firm deployed its technology for the  St. Kitts Solid Waste Management Corp., which included standardized bins with RFID tags to capture and manage data regarding each bin collection, says Anthony DaSilva, the chairman of  Innotech Group, ProSource's parent company

Anthony DaSilva

This summer, Barbados will become the second such island to deploy the technology. Each household is being provided with two new bins, one for recycling and the other for general waste. Each bin comes with an RFID tag printed with a barcode. As the bins are dropped off at each residence, free of charge, waste-management personnel will scan the barcode or read the RFID tag in each label via a handheld reader provided by  Zebra Technologies.

Employees will input each household address, which will be linked to the specific bin in the cloud-based software. The bin's geolocation will then be stored in the software, based on the GPS data captured by the handheld device. With that data, agency can schedule bin collection in a more systematic way. A total of 40 trucks are equipped with Rehrig's UHF RFID readers, while an in-cab application displays route data on each driver's mounted tablet device. Drivers can follow the route scheduled for them each day.

Workers first step out of their truck and position a bin for the vehicle's mechanical lifting system, which lifts the bin into the hopper. The RFID tag data is captured when the tipped bin comes within range of the reader, Tomlinson explains. As data is captured with each bin tip, it is automatically updated on the driver's tablet and is forwarded to the software via a cellular connection. The system can not only flag events, such as a bin being missed along the collection route, but also identify if a bin is at the wrong location.

The software can optimize routes over time, including recalculating them based on what has been picked up or what might have been missed. With the new system in place, residents will receive weekly trash pickup, while recycling materials will be collected twice monthly. Prior to the system's launch, ProSource is deploying readers and lifter units on each of the island's 40 trucks, and it will distribute the bins. A publicity campaign, meanwhile, is alerting residents to the new system, as well as providing education about litter prevention.

During the deployment process, Tomlinson reports, the company hopes to incorporate some of the institutional knowledge existing drivers have to offer regarding their routes. "We've got passion around this project," DaSilva says, "since it's where our headquarters are, and we're really motivated to ensure it's a success." For the SSA, he adds, this will provide numerous benefits. The system will be more environmentally friendly than the previous solution, as it will ensure an efficient route for drivers and keep streets cleaner by providing regular waste pickup.

According to DaSilva, the island nation seeks to build a reputation as the cleanest tourist destination in the Caribbean, and this solution is intended to help it meet that goal. In addition, the technology is expected to reduce fuel consumption by optimizing routes and making work safer for personnel as they pick up standardized bins using mechanical lifters. "The system also empowers each citizen to be part of a clean island effort," he states.

The challenge, DaSilva says, has been to transform waste management from a manual process to one that employs cutting-edge technology. "Nowhere in the Caribbean are they doing any form of automated or semi-automated collection," he reports, so the technology is poised to benefit numerous islands with automation and RFID data capture. "We transform them from manual, non-data-driven collection systems to a fully technology-based system," Tomlinson says.

ProSource works with multiple partners, including Rehrig,  Bayne Thinline and  C2 Logix. The Barbadian company says another eight or 10 Caribbean islands have expressed an interest in the technology as well, and it is now in varying stages of planning or discussing the solution's deployment with those countries' governments.