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Smart bins: no waste on waste


Manage and control the collection and disposal of waste? I think about it smart bins designed by Politecnico di Milano. Alberto Rovetta, after having invented, created and brought them to Expo 2010 in Shanghai, he wants to spread them throughout Italy and Europe. You don't need who knows what magic or expense, you start with common bins, and transform them with robotics technologies. Thus, the public administrations in red would recognize the points where there is waste, the collection trucks would go without fail, without unnecessary travel. And citizens would see the expense for the collection justified.

1) Smart bins: what is it?

THE smart bins they are normal bins for waste collection but equipped with measurement systems of certain quantities such as the weight of the collected material, the volume of the collected material, the internal temperature and humidity. Up to now, waste collection takes place without any measurement of the collected material and without any immediate information on the disposition of the bins, their use, their effective functioning. The measurements recorded by the smart binsinstead, they arrive via the Internet with GPRS to a coordination center which processes them and sends the information to the collection center. The advantage is obvious: transparency of use, efficiency in use, saving unnecessary truck trips if a bin is empty and therefore should not be unloaded, and above all a transparent and clear management of collection and costs. The economic line in big cities is this.

At the Politecnico di Milano, we have two types of "intelligent systems": the first is that of bins that have all the necessary instrumentation inside, the second instead uses a plate with intelligent sensors, equipped with all the electronics, mechanically separated from the dumpster. They perform the same measurements, they are both covered by patents of the Politecnico di Milano.

2) How did the idea come about?

The idea was born from the simple observation: why not apply "intelligent robotics" to the so important and natural operation of disposing and throwing away the waste that must be performed every morning? We made a complete prototype, which also recognized the objects thrown into the container. Then it was a continuous evolution with improvements and export of the product internationally, first to China and then to Europe.

The Italian Ministry of the Environment he suggested we develop it in Shanghai, the financing arrived, and after six years we were in Expo 2010 in Shanghai, with many bins.

Two of these are in the atrium of the Rectorate of the Politecnico di Milano, and collect plastic and glass. They have lasted ever since, worked perfectly and can continue to do their job for many years.

3) What kind of technologies have you used to make the bins smart? What concrete results are there?

We have applied all the robotic technologies we knew, and the software is very beautiful and "colorful". It can be seen at www.greenwaste.info, with demos and examples. With passwords, we detect the situation in Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai, Italy and other countries, where we have our smart bins.

The most concrete result is constituted by the couple of elements: savings in collection, because the situation of the thousands of bins is known and under control, and at the same time validation of the collection and of the costs required of the citizen who can detect the quantity and quality of the waste every day. service used.

Costs are rising but technology offers savings for the collection. Smart bins, with increasingly cheaper structures, are a positive tool for reducing costs and making waste collection transparent.

4) How long have you worked on it? How many? Are you still working on it and what improvements?

We started in 2003, al Politecnico di Milano, in Bovisa Campus, to the Department of Mechanics, in the “Marzio Falco” Pavilion, to have the right instrumentation.

In Italy 3 people take care of it and we rely heavily on the IT supports, applications that we have in many parts of the world (Greece, USA, China, etc.).

We work on it constantly, day and night, and we are sure that we can improve our product more and more, both by obtaining ever lower costs and by offering performances that were unthinkable ten years ago. The improvements that I try to develop concern the quality of the service and above all the enhancement of the "things" that surround us, because even the "refusal" is an element that has helped us in daily life.

5) How much does a smart bin cost, compared to a normal one? Is it a feasible investment for a public administration?

The model with the plate was chosen by Beijing for economic reasons: it is very sturdy, eternal, if you like; good for a large series of bins, it has minimal maintenance. Made of metal, it costs around a few hundred euros which is cheap, believe me. If made of fiberglass, the cost is much lower, because the structure is made with molds.

For a public administration it is very suitable, above all because it allows you to see on the computer, in red, the points where there is waste. Furthermore, the collection trucks always go without fail, and do not make unnecessary journeys. The savings are enormous, and in particular every citizen can see his expenditure for the collection justified. Today almost nothing is known about it.

6) Where are they installed today and where would you like to install them in the future?

We have 150 in Beijing, in the Chaoyang district, the most chic in the city. Others are in application and duration tests. Others in Milan are also applied to bins of 3500 liters. We have recently started dissemination and advertising. We have a Chinese partner on the site www.greenaoto.com, a site on which they have been presented in English and Chinese for some time. We also present them at Ecomondo in Rimini in November 2012, in collaboration with Dr. Eleonora Perotto, of the Environmental Management of the Politecnico di Milano.

In the future I would like to install them in London, USA, Paris, Germany, and where every city requests.

No special equipment is needed, on the contrary: i bins already existing, without changing anything. They are also suitable for Camogli, Santander, Rzeszow and Milan. Also in the World Project of Smart City we were finalists in the topic of “waste management” among many competitors, in a competition that remains very interesting and alive at a global level.

7) How did you manage to bring them to the Shanghai Expo? Would it be possible to install them on the Expo 2015 site?

To apply our Intelligent Containers at Expo 2010 in Shanghai we followed a complex and selective procedure. I was initially asked for a demo - 3 years before the Expo - at the Shanghai Environment Commission, then a public presentation on October 20, 2009 at the Shanghai Congress Center, for demonstration to the Chinese press and government units. Following the preparation of the 31 smart bins and, on the night of April 28, 2010, the installation in the deserted avenues of the EXPO and their networking.

Two of them still work at the entrance to the Rectorate of the Polytechnic of Milan, shipped by air from Beijing, by the AOTO company, a leader in China, with which we have collaborated from the beginning for the production of the mechanical part.

The system has improved and is tested day by day, and recently, in July 2012, it was presented at the Singapore Exhibition.

As for the possibility of taking it to Expo 2015 I can only say that, in general, on developments in different territories, our software easily adapts to any international reality and is active in 5 languages. The needs requested by the various users are met very easily, given the large range of products we develop, as can be seen on the net.

Interview byMarta Abbà


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