RFID Helps Vacuum Up Waste at Pneumatic Disposal Sites

By Claire Swedberg

Finnish technology company MariMatic Oy is providing companies and municipalities with an underground waste and recycling system that uses RFID to allow access to authorized users only, and to store data about who used each receptacle.

Individuals discarding waste or recycling in parts of Finland and beyond are using passive RFID technology to provide them with access to bins without requiring that they touch the bins during the process. The system accepts solid waste only from authorized users, and disposes of it via an underground network of tubes. The technology is provided by Finnish sanitation technology company MariMatic Oy, and can also manage dirty laundry for hospitals, hotels or other companies.

MariMatic's MetroTaifun solution is what the company calls an Automatic Solid Waste Collection System (AWCS), based on pneumatic conveying technology and radio frequency identification. Municipalities, as well as private companies, can use the MariMatic technology to dispose of both waste and recycling, says Jari Enontekiö, MariMatic's sales and projects VP.

MetroTaifun's automatic waste-collection system is being used in Vantaa, Finland.

The system consists of pneumatic tubes that whisk waste or recyclables away from the disposal site to an area where they can be processed. This saves street-side space and the need for weekly vehicle-based pickups. The system also, however, manages which individuals have access to the waste bins. By installing an RFID reader on each bin, and by providing RFID fobs to authorized users, the company or municipality can allow access only to those users, and also track how much is being collected and who contributed to the waste that was collected automatically.

MartiMatic has offered its AWCS system for the past seven years, with a total of about 30 projects for solid waste including RFID technology. The company also has 1,000 installations with industrial customers. It is now expanding that system's use further throughout Finland, as well as in Denmark, Sweden and China.

The system is already employed in the city of Tampere, in the Vuores area, as well as in the developing areas of Vantaa and Espoo, Finland; Vällingby Parkstad, Sweden; and Odense, Denmark.

Each receptacle device (which is dedicated to either bio waste, mixed, cardboard or paper products) comes with a built-in Idesco reader. When the system is installed, each qualified person or apartment is assigned an RFID-enabled key fob. In Finland, users are receiving 125 kHz low-frequency (LF) tags, while those in China employ 13.56 high-frequency (HF) Mifare, Desfire and Mifare Plug technology compliant with the ISO 14443A standard.

When a user taps the key fob, which comes with a built-in RFID tag, near the front of the receptacle, the reader's antenna captures that tag ID number and forwards the information to the MetroTaifun control cabinet, where the tag ID is verified. The hatch motor is then triggered to open the hatch, enabling the user to discard his or her waste.

An RFID-controlled inlet in a residential area

The waste (up to 120 liters of non-liquid) is then captured by the vacuum conveying technology, after which it is moved through the underground tube network to a sortation area. In the meantime, the bin hatch closes automatically. Waste bags, once emptied, are thrown into another designated bin with an RFID reader. At the receiving area, the waste is further sorted and transported as raw material to be used for the manufacturing of new products.

The RFID tag and bin reader IDs are sent via a cabled or Wi-Fi connection to the centralized access-control system software, hosted on a dedicated or cloud-based server, where it is then stored. That information enables MariMatic or its customers to know who is using specific bins. In the event of and incorrect disposal (such as biowaste being placed in the cardboard receptacle), that user can be contacted.

For users, Enontekiö says, one benefit is the fact that the hatch opens automatically. This means they do not need to touch anything.

Marimatic approached Idesco in 2011, seeking a simple and easy way to install an RFID system to control access to its waste-collection points. "Our product range is very wide," says Jari Valtonen, Idesco's CEO, "covering the products from low-end to hi-end, from low-frequency to high-frequency, so it was not that difficult to offer the product meeting their request."

With the RFID technology, Enontekiö saus, the system's safety is improved and the unauthorized use of disposal containers is eliminated. "Also, the clients are getting information on the waste volumes and usage in each of the collection points," Enontekiö notes, which has improved recycling rates. "People using the system are more careful to throw the correct waste into correct waste inlets," he states.

MariMatic's Jari Enontekiö

MariMatic frequently expands the project, Enontekiö says. When new collection points and inlets are put into use, he adds, RFID is installed as well. In a typical residential area, there are approximately 100 collection points and more than 400 waste inlets, all of which are controlled via RFID. However, there is no limit to the system's size or usage, and thousands of waste inlets could be connected to a single waste terminal.

MetroTaifun currently has projects ongoing in Finland, Sweden, Norway and China, as well as in Saudi Arabia, where the company has built what it claims is the world's largest vacuum conveying system. A solution for collecting laundry, in addition to waste, has been installed at Finland's Malmi Hospital and at Norway's Henrik Sørensensvei care home. In addition, MariMatic supplies vacuum conveying systems for transporting food waste in the food industry and kitchens.

According to the company, the system could also enable users to weigh all waste bags as they are disposed, and to link this data to users via RFID. This would allow waste-management fees to be based on this information.