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Livechat summary: Rotterdam & Amsterdam talk about waste collection optimization strategy

Updated: Oct 17, 2018


Summary of the livechat led on Convercities waste channel on September 28th, 2018.


Daan van den Elzen is a project manager for waste management at the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands and Peter de Boer is a project manager for waste collection and logistics at the city of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Both are directly involved in 2 of the biggest tenders involving IoT for waste collection optimization worldwide. They presented these projects to Convercities’ members during a chat of which we extracted some information with their approval.


The benefits of waste collection optimization

Waste collection optimization increasingly drives cities’ attention as handling an ever-growing amount of waste represents 20 to 50% of cities budgets in most developing countries, according to a World Bank report.

Waste collection optimization not only enables cities to cut collection costs but also to

  • reduce traffic congestion,

  • improve citizen satisfaction (no more overflowing containers),

  • reduce greenhouse gases emissions by reducing the number of kilometers truck drivers cover,

  • improve waste separation rates.


“Tendering as usual”

Yet “tendering as usual” often makes it impossible to optimize waste collection because it prescribes minimum waste collection frequencies (e.g.: every 7 days for the glass fraction). Under these conditions, reducing the collection frequency by monitoring the filling-level of each container is impossible. Both project managers from Rotterdam and Amsterdam don’t think it makes sense to set fixed collection frequencies to optimize waste collection operations (except for the organic fraction in warm countries and few other exceptions).


Projects and technologies

In Amsterdam, a large part of collection trucks have a weighing mechanism since 2014: the system instantly knows which container is being picked up and how much it weighs. A partner university reports that 80 to 90% of waste containers show consistent filling trends based on weighing data. This data could be used to predict filling-levels and generate optimized collection routes. Yet this system is less reliable than measuring the container filling-level with a sensor since it can’t detect outlier events like house moving.

Another way of optimizing waste collection is to use data measured by filling-level sensors placed inside the containers. Amsterdam has 12,500 containers and tested sensors on the plastic fraction in the last years. This system made by Enevo led to an increase in the waste collection efficiency.

Engineer from Rotterdam

Amsterdam recently issued a tender asking bidders to help the city optimize its waste collection operations with no target number of filling-level sensors. The city is not sure about the sensors’ return on investment and thus lets bidders free to determine the best way to ensure an annual €3 million decrease in waste collection operational costs. Bidders may rely on a combination of weighing system data and filling-level sensors. The ability of solution providers to work with different kind of data (filling-levels, weigh, weather, special events, holidays etc.) appears to be increasingly important.


Daan van den Elzen from Rotterdam explains that his department is now in the midst of implementing this technique on all its 6540 containers (except households which use bins and buildings which have waste rooms) with Bwaste, a Dutch provider.

Both cities anticipate scaling up from trial to large deployment will come with difficulties related to the diversity of waste types that sensors measure. Cardboard, for one, can cause faulty filling-level measurements for instance. With cardboard on the rise, Amsterdam is thinking about an efficient retour logistics strategy.


How to get prepared if you want to optimize waste collection in your city:

Peter de Boer recommends that cities specifically set quantitative goals such as annual waste collection budget reduction before issuing this kind of tender. He also highlighted the importance of knowing where are the city assets (containers), how many of them you have, what type etc. Data structure is another important point: it should be ready to be used with external IT systems.

Both project managers emphasized that tenders should include change management consultancy since digital dynamic routing is very often a new way of working for waste collection departments. If not included, there is a risk of not making the most out of the new available tools.


Stay tuned for the next live chat and updates on Convercities.

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