The Waste Management Challenge

Gary Tully, Business Development Executive, SAP & Darren Hunt, Director of Public Sector, SAP

Financial constraints in the public sector have long been cause for concern, with citizens expecting better and more intuitive services. But the fact is, with growing capabilities and flexibility from digital solutions, local government should be seeing budget cuts as an opportunity to innovate service offerings and drive savings.

Waste management is one of local governments’ biggest challenges and costs, with those in England alone spending almost £4 billion on household waste collection between 2012 and 2013. This figure makes up around 3% of local governments total revenue and equates to the removal of 23 million tonnes of household waste.

These costs are down, in no small part, to rising landfill prices which are charged on a per meter basis. In effect, local governments are throwing money in to a pit! But, as the UK makes every effort to achieve its obligations under the EU Landfill Directive, local authorities must devise measures to improve waste disposal such as recycling, composting and even leveraging thermal treatment facilities to extract energy from waste.

In order to understand where the pinch points are, organisations must be able to gather and leverage data about waste production levels. As such, technology solutions are beginning to support governments in improving collaboration with third party agencies, to gain data fuelled insights that will address the individual service needs of their constituency.

Digital platforms are empowering local government to better collaborate with one another and commissioned third party agencies, to reduce costs and improve service delivery. The rise in IoT sensors and connected devices is becoming a huge opportunity for waste management in particular, with local governments able to put these sensors in bins and gain detailed insights of citizens’ waste production.

Armed with this information, government can make well informed decisions regarding things like waste collection frequency and public recycling initiatives for different localities, to reduce waste production and ultimately costs.

Typically, most local governments authorise weekly rubbish collection for each household. Now, for a large family this frequency of collection may not be enough to sanitarily dispose of household waste, potentially creating increased litter with rubbish overflowing bins. On the other hand, an individual living on their own mightn’t need their rubbish collected for two weeks, which means that this level of service delivery is uneconomical.

The only way for local government to accurately determine the service requirements of individual households is to be equipped with technology innovations that are constantly registering this information on platforms that can analyse huge data sets and detect patterns to support greater efficiency in service delivery.

In future this information could be harnessed to support collaboration between multiple local authorities, to jointly commission these types of services. For instance constituencies sharing a boundary may have corresponding waste management needs, making it more economical to share the costs of third party agencies. But in order to determine this course of action, local governments need to be able to gather and analyse the data now available to them.

While landfill tax is driving up costs, approximately 60% of rubbish in the average UK households bin is recyclable, demonstrating the enormous cost saving potential. But in order to leverage this, local governments must have access to platforms that can rapidly analyse data produced by IoT enabled bins, in order to provide citizens in areas of high waste and low recycling with the tools and support to improve their waste disposal habits. Understanding which areas require more attention allows local government to better target their disposal and recycling strategies, achieving overall budget savings for this public service.

Digital solutions are opening up and quickly making sense of a range of varied data sets from a number of sources, to create a simple and understandable overview of public service needs. Adopting a model of collaboration and transparency will be the key to driving further cost savings and efficiency in all public services, as well as waste management. If the future of waste management can be automated and simplified to vastly reduce costs and improve the UK’s environmental output, then it is only a matter of time before similar technology revolutionises the likes of traffic control and policing. The possibilities are endless, it is just a matter of equipping local authorities with the platform to revolutionise public service delivery.