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Waste Management at Your Fingertips

Equipped with Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, gamification, and blockchain technologies, these digitally-enabled solutions aim to make waste collection and management more efficient. R. Keerthana reports.


Filed under
Waste Management
 
August 16 2022
 
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LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY TO BRING ABOUT BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE

NADEERA

THE IDEA

When Nadeera Technologies entered the waste management scene in 2015 in Lebanon, the country was in the midst of a waste crisis, with landfills and streets overflowing with garbage. Nadeera received a grant from the European Union for a waste management programme. “In our research, we understood that the mismanagement of waste was not a technical issue, but a behavioural one. It involved multiple stakeholders – consumers, government entities and property managers. We decided to address this using technology, as in a phone, as it is accessible to everyone,” said Rabih El Chaar, CEO and co-founder, Nadeera. The company launched its flagship product Nadeera, in January 2021.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

 Nadeera works with property managers, municipalities, and waste management companies to deploy holistic waste management master plans enabled by its tech solutions.

Following a study done with the support of behavioural scientists from Yale University, the company decided to focus on three aspects. The first is to make recycling fun and easy. “Because recycling is a chore and people don’t want to add another chore to their busy life. Making recycling fun will eliminate the behavioural hurdle,” said Chaar. On the Nadeera app, users can take a picture of an item that they want to recycle and the AI algorithm on the app will identify if the chosen item is recyclable or not. Secondly, the garbage bags Nadeera provides to the users have a QR code on them corresponding to their Nadeera account. Feedbacks are sent to the users based on how they have segregated the trash. The feedback includes recognition for good job done and information on the impact of their segregation on the environment. The users are given points based on their waste collection.

The third element is about giving direct incentive for contributing to recycling. The points thus collected can be redeemed at partner stores across the nation.

Another solution of the company called Yalla Return caters to lower socio-economic classes and offers digital cash for recyclables. Nadeera has set up collection centres across Lebanon. People bring in their recyclables to these centres, weigh them and based on the weight, they are given digital cash equivalents. It’s a blockchain platform and therefore all the transactions are verified and validated, said Chaar. The digital credit can be exchanged at partner supermarkets or can be donated to select charities. Nadeera also partners with companies such as Pepsico to incentivise consumers to segregate their waste.

USING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO IDENTIFY, MONITOR AND REDUCE FOOD WASTE

WINNOW

THE IDEA

Winnow is a food waste management technology, enabled with Artificial Intelligence, that allows kitchens to monitor, track and reduce food waste.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Winnow has different types of products that help in managing food waste. Winnow Vision: Winnow Vision (also called Transform) is an AI-enabled hardware with a motion sensor camera and a scale. The camera points down into the bin and automatically recognises what is being thrown into the bin. It “learns” to recognise many different food items over time. Users can refine the system further by training it on specific menu items. Whenever something is thrown into the bin, the scale recognises the change in weight and gives its measure. And on the screen, kitchen staff can categorise whether the waste came from spoilage, inventory or overproduction. The data can be downloaded as a daily, weekly or monthly report. “Businesses and chefs can then use the food, financial, and environmental cost information to adjust their food purchasing decisions and reduce food waste accordingly,” said Maria Sanu, Marketing Manager, Winnow. Winnow Vision has been designed for mid-sized kitchens that require in-depth insight with high accuracy & minimal time and effort.

The second type is called Track. It’s a simple portable tablet where people manually log in what’s been discarded into the bin. It is a basic level product designed for smaller kitchens. The weight is calculated on the scale and the food waste data is recorded on the tablet.

The third type, Winnow Sense, connects the kitchen to customer’s food habits. It gives a sense of how much plate waste is generated with communication tools to help drive sustainable choices. Plate waste is the waste that customers generate. Motion sensor camera and the scale record and weigh food waste from plates. It is designed for complete coverage across pre- and postconsumer waste. Working with the hotels and chefs, the details are pre-programmed into the system and through machine learning, the system refines its skills at recognising food items.

EFFECTIVENESS

 On a global level, Winnow is saving its clients £42 million in a year, said Sanu. Roughly it is 36 million meals saved and 1000 tonnes of CO2 waste decomposed, she added.

BLOCKCHAIN-BASED PLATFORM THAT REWARDS USERS FOR NOT LITTERING

ZELOOP

THE IDEA

ZeLoop is a blockchain-based rewards platform that pays users with their native cryptocurrency (ERW) for engaging in recycling activities. Coming from the packaging industry, Eric Schaffner, CEO, ZeLoop, was closely aware of the growing concern over plastic pollution. Schaffner, along with three blockchain experts, founded ZeLoop to incentivise consumers for not littering plastic bottles. The first mobile app was released in July 2020 worldwide.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The platform constitutes three main elements. 1. A reward engine, 2. A utility token and 3.An application. The ZeLoop mobile application, focused on preventing littering, is plugged on into this platform. “The idea is to allow any solution that incentivises individuals for their eco-friendly gestures to be able to plug into the platform,” said Schaffner. The app allows users to locate the closest crowdsourced collection point, take a photo of the bottles they are depositing, and be rewarded with a token for each deposit. Users can also get incentivised for registering a collection point and inviting a friend to the platform. Eco Reward tokens can be used to purchase goods and services or simply exchanged for money. The plastic bottles can be anything from a water bottle to a shampoo bottle.

Plogging: Users can also deposit bottles that are in the environment while plogging. This activity encourages collection of any trash and not just plastic bottles. The ERW token earned is credited in the user’s wallet automatically, said Schaffner.

EFFECTIVENESS

 The mobile app has close to 14,000 registered users in more than 160 countries. ZeLoop has mapped over 5000 deposit points in 52 countries since 2020.

Companies use ZeLoop’s Eco Mission Challenge as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) employees and end-users engagement programmes. The companies reward the top plastic waste collectors in the challenge.

GAMIFICATION

ZeLoop has different levels of gamification on the platform. From simple to complex games are available for users to play while also doing their part for recycling.

THE PROBLEM OF PLENTY

 Talking about the challenges in dealing with waste, Schaffner said, “Since the Industrial Revolution, we have entered into a life of profusion. Earlier, people used to value everything. They did not discard things that easily. With modern technology, there is a profusion of goods and we have lost the sense of attaching value to products. Would people discard plastic in nature if it were gold?” he asked. Lack of education and efficient infrastructure are also some of the challenges in waste management. When recycled plastics cost five times more than virgin, producers and manufacturers would choose the cheaper option, unless there are regulations to mandate the integration of recycled plastic in their product, such as those in the European countries, he added. 

ORGANISING THE UNORGANISED WASTE SECTOR THROUGH SAAS

THE KABADIWALA

THE IDEA

The Kabadiwala is a technology-driven company working on SaaS-based model to organise the waste management sector.

Anurag Asati, co founded The Kabadiwala, with Kavindra Raghuwanshi, in India in 2014. The Kabadiwala (‘kabadiwala’ means scrap dealer in Hindi) offers waste management services for individuals, municipalities and businesses. The idea began when Asati had trouble finding a scrap dealer to sell old books and papers. Being an IT engineering graduate and a tech enthusiast, Asati decided to utilise technology to connect recyclers and people. “If you want to improve efficiency and transparency, technology is your best bet.” The company also offers incentives to the consumer to encourage source segregation and recycling.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

To schedule a pick up service, users have to visit the Kabadiwala site or app and choose the items that they want to sell. The platform updates the price list for newspapers, plastic, metal, e-waste and mattress and offers guidelines on what can be recycled and how to segregate them. Once the pickup is scheduled, the materials are collected and weighed. Consumers are given the option to get paid on their UPI account. The collected materials are sent to its segregation facility. Post segregation, the materials are sent to the Kabadiwala network of recyclers.

The company also offers technology-enabled solution for material recovery at the Municipal Material Recovery Facilities. The scrap collectors from the informal sector are onboarded on the platform. The materials recovered are scanned via the QR code inbuilt on the platform. Technical framework for record keeping is installed to encourage transparency and traceability at every step.

The company helps corporates and businesses to manage their waste and achieve their EPR targets through the platform. “The platform helps in scrap collection, CSR programmes, dismantling and paper shredding, “ said Asati, “All at the click of the mouse.”

“The Kabadiwala presents four different apps for users, pickup executives, city managers & MRF centres to keep a track of waste sold, segregated, bailed, transported, and recycled.”

EFFECTIVENESS

The company currently has 1.5 lakh registered users. On an average, about 700 to 800 tonnes of waste is collected per month. Almost all of them are sent for recycling, with non-recyclable materials downcycled or repurposed into something else. The Kabadiwala has overcome the challenge of getting people to adopt digital solutions. “When we started out, only 3 per cent of the orders came through our online platform. So, we offered the pick up service over phone call and whatsapp, Now, 85 per cent of the booking comes from the app and website.”