Sensors and software from BrighterBins make waste collection ‘smart’
Waste collection, whether private, public or industrial, can be done much more sustainably if the process is customised. If waste bins or containers are emptied before they are entirely full, then collection vehicles – many of which are heavy trucks producing considerable CO2 as well as air pollution – do unnecessary kilometres. On the other hand, nobody wants to overflow waste containers in their garden, street, local park or on their company premises. These can cause litter and odours, not to mention attract rodents.
Successful customised collection requires a system that is monitored and managed entirely digitally. That is the speciality of BrighterBins, a young enterprise. Since 2017, this Flemish business has been offering ‘smart’ waste-collection solutions to customers in Belgium, in other European countries, but also further afield – as far as India and Australia.
What type of cleantech innovation is involved?
Conventional container sensors measure only one dimension: using ultrasonic signals they ‘scan’ from the top (the lid) to see to what level a container is filled. “Besides this, our sensors also use laser pulses,” says CEO Noman Ahmed from the BrighterBins headquarters in Ghent. “This allows us to generate a 3D image of the actual waste volume, which gives a much more reliable assessment. For example, the waste in a large container can be distributed very erratically. Think of a glass recycling container, for instance, where the empty bottles and jars are all dropped in from the same side.”Furthermore, the BrighterBins sensors also take standard pictures with visible light, allowing different waste fractions such as paper, metal or plastic to be recognised and distinguished. “That helps with the recycling, since the more information that processing companies receive on the waste streams that are on the way, the better they can respond.”
The data from the sensors is transferred via mobile networks to an (open) software platform designed by BrighterBins. “Using AI tools, such as machine learning, the optimal collection route is calculated for collection vehicles – thus minimising the number of working hours and kilometres on the road, and therefore also the pollution.”
What is the sustainability benefit and the impact on society?
A circular economy and society depends on efficient waste management. Smart waste collection can play an important role in achieving this. “Waste bins and containers are still often collected and emptied too early or too late. This shortcoming can be improved thanks to digital monitoring.” BrighterBins targets two important market segments: public waste collection (waste bins in the public domain) by local authorities, and commercial collection (business waste) by private waste companies.
Thanks to the smart waste-collection solutions from BrighterBins, cities and municipalities can reduce the CO2 emissions from their fleet of waste collection vehicles by 40 percent. “Not only that, employees can also be deployed much more efficiently, based on real-time information provided by our software. For some of our customers, such optimisation of collection routes has reduced the costs by as much as 50 percent.” The solutions are also perfectly aligned with local authorities' ambitions to make 'smart cities' of the urban environment.
How important is internationalisation for the company?
“In the early days, our company was very internationally focused. There were just two of us (Noman Ahmed and Imdad Lasker, the two founders) when we began in 2017. Meanwhile, we have more than twenty employees. Half of these – our R&D teamwork in Pakistan. Our sales team is distributed between our headquarters in Belgium and other offices in the Netherlands, Germany and Norway, but also in the Gulf States.”
This geographical spread is indispensable for the rapid innovation which lies at the heart of BrighterBins' business strategy. “From our regional departments, we identify the challenges in the different countries and aim to respond to the varying wishes of our customers.” The company currently has thousands of monitoring systems installed in fifteen countries.
What is the growth perspective?
BrighterBins has high expectations in 2021 with, above all, significant growth in Europe and the United States. “The waste-management market in these countries is ready for the mass integration of sensor technology. This year, in order to meet the strongly accelerating demand, we are proactively producing large quantities of new sensors.”
The Flemish company makes no secrets of its ambition. It aims to become one of the most important players in the sector of smart waste management. “We have the potential to achieve this, specifically due to our innovative technology. Having spent years focusing on our R&D, the time is now ripe to increase our efforts on sales and on collaboration with authorities and other organisations. However, this is only possible thanks to our former focus on R&D.”