Norway City’s Waste Management Leverages Cameras, RFID

Published: November 29, 2023

The hybrid solution automates data capture about which wastebins are emptied as well as how many “green” recyclable bags at each household.

Norway’s Halden Municipality is gaining an extensive view into its waste collection with a hybrid radio-frequency identification (RFID) and camera-based system that identifies waste being picked up at each customer site, and whether that waste is trash or recycling.

The RFID solution rollout began as a university student project in 2016, and has evolved since, with camera-based technology being added most recently to provide more granular data about what bin is emptied at each customer site, when and where.

The solution from technology company RFID-Solutions has saved the city money that was previously spent paying the third-party waste management provider for extra waste pickups, which in some cases, didn’t actually happen. The system enables better customer service, says RFID-Solutions’ CIO Geir Vevle, since city personnel can view each household’s pickup details in real time, and thereby provide customers with accurate information.

Government Accountability

By leveraging both RFID and camera-based data, the city can identify each pickup and confirm that each household is separating the trash into correct categories—regular waste, food waste and paper. The camera enables the system to track how many green bags (which contain food waste) are being collected from each household, thereby understanding whether inhabitants are sorting their bio-waste.

The goal of the green bag management is to improve sustainability by providing insight into how much households are sorting out their food waste, which enables to city to educate those in sections of the municipality that are not trying hard enough to separate the trash into its categories.

EU regulations require sorting of bio-waste and plastics by 2025, with 55 percent of bio-waste and 50 percent of plastics sorted out. Biowaste then is transformed into biogas and plastic is recycled.

Located in southern Norway, Halden pays a third-party collection company for its residents’ waste management. The city, which was a finalist in the RFID Journal 2023 best implementation award, had found discrepancies occurred between the number of bins being invoiced by the collections company, and the number of bins actually being emptied, resulting in overcharges for services that weren’t provided.

Additionally, some of the nearly 32,000 residents were calling the city to claim their bins were not emptied, even though they were, which led to additional costs for repeated collections.

Pushing the Technology Further

While many municipalities were using LF RFID to capture bin emptying events, Halden’s team wanted to try a technology that would be more accurate, and opted to investigate a UHF RFID system.

In 2016, four college students began working with the city on a project that completed in 2019. RFID-Solutions became involved around that time, creating a team of the company’s architects and developers along with municipality managers aimed at ensuring the business goals were met.

The deployment began with a proof of concept with a few bins and temporary equipment on a single truck which found the technology worked well. The program was expanded in specific areas of the 248 square mile city in which waste bins were tagged before finally rolling out the UHF RFID system across its entire customer base.

The city chose RFID tags Avery Dennison Smartrac Short Dipole tags with Impinj Monza R6 chip. The tags were built into bins by RFID-Source A/S Denmark. Today, all 30,000 bins throughout the city are tagged with the waste bin ID is linked to the household as well as the GPS location.

How it Works

The city applied RFID tags under the lid of every waste bin. Each weatherproof tag comes with a printed QR code scanned to create a link between the household and the unique ID encoded on that bin’s RFID tag. That data is then stored in the city’s system software, also provided by RFID-Solutions.

Each truck has a UHF RFID reader provided by IoT technology company Acceliot. Each of the Starflex STR400E readers are combined with RUT955 4G+GPS gateways from Teltonika. As drivers guide their trucks through their collection route, the IoT Platform software, known as Thingsboard, is running on the vehicle’s dashboard. In that way, truck operators can view data relevant to their route and pickups in real time.

When the driver stops at a pickup site, the bin is automatically lifted and dumped in the hopper where the RFID reader is deployed. The reader captures the tag ID, and links that data with the timestamp and GPS location of the truck.

At the same time, the Omron camera which is mounted on the back of the truck, takes a picture. Thingsboard’s image recognition functionality calculates how many green waste bags have been dumped, and adds that data to the IoT platform. The trucks’ onboard software forwards the data to the backend IoT database using messaging protocol MQTT.

Software Interactions

The software provides user interfaces needed for the administration of the waste collection in the municipality including maps, lists of bin and pickup sites, as well as the ability to drill down into the data and diagrams, says RFID’s Vevle. At the same time, the waste management company’s customer support staff can see documentation of the emptying that has taken place.

While the system provides real-time data, it can be used for analytics as well. Officials offer that waste management personnel can use the information captured by the technology to improve planning of the emptying service.

“Data is combined between several systems to leverage as much information and intelligence from the data collected as possible,” says Vevle.

In fact, the municipality reports that it has gained greater intelligence related to waste collection since the IoT solution was implemented. Government officials have seen a reduction in costs that were previously related to paying for more bins to be emptied than were actually being serviced by the trucks.

Customizing the Solution

As with most new projects, modifications were required as it rolled out across the city. The deployment team made adjustments to both hardware and software throughout the piloting and roll out, says Vevle. The team found ways to make installations more seamless by building a unit that could be installed quickly on each vehicle.

“The readers and GPS plus 4G are put together into a cabinet with power supply to make the installation possible for any truck workshop,” Vevle says.

The challenging environment of waste collection required some adjustments to reader sensitivity as well. At first, Vevle says, “UHF RFID transmission was too powerful,” leading to stray reads of bins that might not be on the collection route.

Therefore, the team adjusted not only the read power but angle of the antennas to ensure only bins actually being emptied by the trucks’ mechanical systems were read and documented. Optimizing the position in which the antennas were installed, also ensured that they couldn’t be knocked loose while the truck was emptying bins.

Reducing Costs

Since the system was deployed, the cost of waste collection for the city has been reduced as well as fewer cases of residents claiming their bins were not emptied. The system data has enabled the municipality to view areas where recycling volume is lower and educate those residents.

Ultimately, the results of that educational effort have helped increase recycling rates.

“The combination of camera counting green bags and RFID linking it to households and areas, are enabling the improvements of recycling performance to be made continuous,” says Vevle, which spares city personnel from manually analyzing the actual garbage of areas as they were doing it in the past.

Future Endeavors

Halden Municipality’s next effort is tightening its integration with the waste management administrative systems, Vevle reports.

The city has a pilot program underway to test Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors in bins to measure waste-levels. With this functionality, the city could then differentiate between those who produce a lot of waste and those who produce less. By adding a sensor to the bins, the waste collection trucks will pick that up when doing the emptying.

This will add another data element into the waste management solution and enable even more intelligence to be extracted from the data, Vevle says.

Key Takeaways:
  • Norwegian city Halden has improved recycling rates and reduced excess costs with a hybrid IoT solution.
  • The RFID and camera-based technology identifies when waste is collected, where, while also detecting the number of green bags – filled with compostable waste – are collected at each site.