Vejle digitises waste collection – gains for both climate and economy

Møde i Vejle kommune

Vejle Municipality has implemented smart sensors in their waste bins, avoiding unnecessary travel to empty and half-empty bins. The municipality is thus a pioneer in using digital technology and IoT (Internet of Things). Intelligent route planning motivates employees and is a win for both climate and economy.

At 5 in the morning, the optimal route plan for emptying Vejle Municipality's hundreds of waste bins, which are placed along the municipality's 2,000 km of roads, is calculated. This dynamic calculation is done automatically based on fresh data from the sensors – so-called fill level sensors – that are installed in each waste bin. The sensors signal the bins as ready for emptying when they are 80 per cent full, thus avoiding unnecessary and climate-damaging travel.

- Vejle Municipality has an innovative approach to digitisation and the use of IoT (Internet of Things), says Lars Bolander, head of the Roads & Parks department in Vejle Municipality. Therefore, the municipality allocated funds for a pilot test on a trial route, where they would improve the efficiency of emptying public waste bins through digital reading of fill levels.

The test gave the green light for full implementation

The test aimed to enable data-driven planning instead of estimated frequency emptying, making it possible to optimise collection, provide better service to citizens, and ensure more environmentally friendly waste management. The test demonstrated clear optimisation potential and a positive business case. Therefore, the fill-level sensors are now rolled out across the municipality following a council decision.

In total, 547 of the municipality's 875 waste bins are now equipped with digital sensors. The remaining bins are placed at central locations in the municipality's central towns and the centre of Vejle, and thus can easily be emptied daily by employees as part of other routines.

Danish-developed solution leads the way

As a supplier, Vejle Municipality has chosen BrainyBins from Danish Maacks, specialists in the digitalisation of waste bins and recycling stations. The BrainyBins® software platform, Dynamic Route, collects data from the fullness sensors, optimises the emptying routes, and generates them online for the employees at the Equipment Yard. It is Vejle Municipality's internal contractor that handles the emptying’s.

- Previously, we would drive out to the bins once or twice a week, but now we can manage with emptying them on average every fortnight, says Sari Jensen from Roads & Parks. She continues:

- The drivers on the route have online access to the emptying route. They register where the individual waste bins have been emptied and can on the spot report any need for possible repairs.

Previously, the waste bins were emptied following fixed routes, either daily or 1-2 times a week, while some were emptied less frequently based on employees' experience. Two people were permanently employed with the emptying’s.

- Now, it is 1.5 employees emptying the waste containers, and through ongoing optimisation, we can reduce this even further. It frees up time for other important tasks, summarises Mikal Bladt, team leader at the Equipment Yard, Vejle Municipality.

The forecasting tool in the BrainyBins platform is based on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Thus, the route planning system continuously improves in predicting when the individual containers need to be emptied next, as it incorporates current measurements with BrainyBins fill level sensors, history, drivers' reports, and other data sources.

Mand ved skraldespand
Mikal Bladt at one of Vejle's waste containers. The BrainyBins® Radar sensor is mounted in the lid of the container.

Motivating for employees

At the office, Sari Jensen can monitor on a screen where all waste bins show fill levels, and when they are emptied. She ensures that drivers are introduced to and motivated to use the system and learn to use the mobile BrainyBins® Navigation tool.

- It's important that the drivers support the digital solution, and they do because it is easy to use – also for substitutes, says Sari Jensen.

The implementation requires discipline and fixed routines when registering the waste bins with type, GPS location etc., in the municipality's DIS database. There needs to be one person who is responsible and can coordinate across the municipality's involved departments, says Sari Jensen. She ensures that the database with location data, which the BrainyBins® Dynamic Route software is connected to, is correct.

Radar paves the way for further optimisation

With precise data about the location and historical data about fill levels recorded in the BrainyBins®-platform, the municipality has now started to trim for any overlaps and reduce the number of waste bins. As this is fully data-driven, it is done without compromising citizen service.

The original trial in 2021 showed up to 30 per cent error reports, and therefore Vejle Municipality chose to switch to Maacks as a supplier of fill level sensors and software. They did this because Maacks, with radar technology, had developed the best sensor on the market, and today the municipality experiences very few error reports.

- The radar sensors from Maacks perform clearly better than anticipated in our goal for the test period. The starting point at that time was the then-current sensor technology, which was not from Maacks, says Sari Jensen.

Also, the signal coverage from the radar sensors is very good via the communication network NB-IOT, where the fill level is updated six times a day.

Results in Vejle are unequivocally positive

The BrainyBins® solution was fully implemented in 2023 and is now in the operational phase. During 2024, the results will be evaluated to also implement the system in other departments in Vejle Municipality. There are high expectations for the evaluation, which is expected to show that the goals of 30 per cent reduced travel, a 40 per cent economic gain, and a reduction of 5.5 tonnes of CO2 per year are met.

- We have a good gut feeling and can see that with the same employees, we now also have time to collect waste along roads and at road bridges, summarises Sari Jensen from Roads & Parks, who is responsible for driving the implementation and the daily operation of the Maacks solution.

- No doubt that the emptying of waste bins is becoming faster and cheaper, and there is a little extra plus that we can quickly respond to our elected politicians when they get questions from concerned citizens about the waste bins. The politicians like that we do not make unnecessary trips, because it shows that we also consider the climate, concludes Lars Bolander.

Mand og kvinde ved siden af en skraldespand
Sari Jensen and Mikal Bladt at a waste container in Vejle Municipality, which is equipped with BrainyBins® Radar sensors.

Do you want to know more about the digital transformation?

Feel free to contact our sales manager Torben Østerby.

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17. October 2019



17. October 2019



17. October 2019