May 2006


New RFID system tracks trash by household

Las Vegas, NV— Cascade Engineering Inc. unveiled an automated system using “smart” waste containers, data readers and scales on trash trucks that will allow cities and towns nationwide to foster recycling and charge households by the weight of trash they put on the curb.

The EcoNology system developed by Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Cascade records the trash disposal habits of individual households through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in plastic trash carts. Data sensors on trash trucks read the RFID chips as the carts are being lifted on forks outfitted with scales, and the weights of carts are recorded through on-board computers. The data is then sent to waste haulers that charge customers by the weight of trash they set out for disposal and potentially reward households that recycle diligently.

The benefits from the EcoNology system include:

•Landfill diversion. Waste management companies can gather detailed information on recycling and trash operations in efforts to reduce landfill disposal expense.
•Asset Management. The unique RFID tag embedded on each container discourages theft or illegal dumping and tracks all activities that occur in the life of the asset.
•Improved operations. Automated data collection helps optimize refuse truck usage, maintain container maintenance records and streamline the customer billing process.
•Data for grants for recycling initiatives. Municipalities often need data to support grants being submitted for federal or state monies for recycling initiatives.
•Encourage recycling.
The system measures weights to within one pound of accuracy and is National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) certified. This means it can be used with confidence to issue rebates and coupons to customers who recycle diligently, such as the program that RecycleBank developed in Philadelphia with Cascade and LTS Scale Corp.

Cascade tested the viability of the automated data tracking and recording system through a pilot program developed by RecycleBank in Philadelphia to encourage recycling. As part of the program, Cascade supplied RFID-enabled waste containers to about 5,000 households in two Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The program gives participants $5 in coupons for every 10 pounds of paper, cans and bottles they put out on their curb each week. Households can earn up to $25 a month in coupons, good at participating retailers that absorb the cost of the coupons. The city saves money on trash hauling, households get discounts and businesses get patrons without advertising.

The percentage of households who recycle in the test neighborhoods rose to 90 percent, up from less than 25 percent at the start of the program in spring last year. Not only did more homes participate, but they recycled more of their trash. The average recycling rate, which compares how diligent residents are about recycling everything allowed, rose from less than 5 percent to more than 50 percent.


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