Throughout the season, the population in the Fanø Municipality fluctuates between 3,000 and 50,000 people, and this makes it difficult to avoid half-empty or overloaded waste containers if you have fixed intervals for emptying. During the summer, Fanø Municipality therefore installed intelligent sensors to measure the real filling level of the containers. Expectations are high.
Over the past few years, Fanø Municipality has modernised their six super recycling collection points and eight regular recycling stations. The latter primarily services the island's approx. 3,400 permanent residents and includes the collection of, among other things, cardboard, plastic, and cans. Most super recycling collection points are close to the island's approx. 2,900 summer cottages, and they also offer the collection of organic and residual waste.
Impossible to plan
At Fanø Municipality, Mads Sørensen, senior engineer in the technical administration, says that it is almost impossible to plan in advance an efficient emptying of the total of 82 containers that are distributed at the 14 recycling collection points. In the areas with permanent residents, the containers are typically filled within half to a full month. In the summer cottage areas, it varies from 1-2 days to several weeks. All containers are of the semi-buried type and hold up to three cubic meters of waste.
- We simply cannot plan our emptying’s because a few days of sunshine can change the picture completely. So far, the emptying has taken place by "gut feeling", and that's how we usually do it, says Mads Sørensen.
- We simply need proper data and documentation so that we can get the best possible decision-making basis for when the containers must be emptied and how to ensure the most efficient route. Emptying at fixed intervals makes no sense and leads to unnecessary driving, he adds.
More internet shopping and an increased environmental awareness among citizens and tourists have increased the amount of recycling material in the local collection points so that the need for emptying is approx. 20 per cent greater than when the offer was made at the time. So, there is a need to get better operating economics and at the same time protect the citizens against overloaded waste containers.
Sensors create overview
This summer, Fanø Municipality chose to install BrainyBins Ultra sensors and BrainyBins software for all the island's 82 containers. Both parts are supplied by the Sønderborg based company Maacks, which specialises in digitisation of waste management.
This brings Fanø Municipality to the forefront with the use of fill level sensors that are based on IoT, a technology that connects things via the Internet so that they can continuously send the needed data - in this case, about the containers.
The sensors are installed at the top of the containers, where they measure the filling level and pass this data on to the municipality via Cloud. The signals are sent up to 60 times a day via the nationwide Sigfox network. It ensures minimal battery consumption, low costs, and good coverage.
- On my monitor, I now have a complete overview of all containers, and next to each one, the filling level is marked with green, yellow or red. Based on that information, I mark the containers to be emptied and create a route plan, which I then send to the contractor, who receives it in the BrainyBins app. The same app is used by the contractor to report when the containers have been emptied. Additionally, I can see the filling history for each individual container and thus assess how urgent it is to empty it, says Mads Sørensen.
The BrainyBins sensors and the BrainyBins software have now been tested for approx. two months, and the experiences are good, says Mads Sørensen. When the sensor detects that the container is 90 per cent full, then it fits. In the beginning the accuracy was not so good, but together with Maacks we found out that the sensor should be placed slightly differently to avoid false signals. In addition, a built-in algorithm ensures that the sensor is constantly learning and becoming more accurate.
- We expect that installing sensors to measure the filling level in our containers will be economical, and that the investment will pay for itself within a manageable time, summarises Mads Sørensen.
The goal is for the emptying’s to be reduced by up to 25 per cent, so that the number comes down to the level of the original tender.
According to Mads Sørensen, the experiences from the first two months show that the number of emptying’s have been reduced by 20 per cent, and thus the municipality is already close to the target of 25 per cent reduction.
The BrainyBins sensor is placed on the top of the container, where it measures the filling level, additional temperature, location etc. The installed battery has a long lifetime, and all parts in the sensor can be dismantled and re-used correctly.
The data is sent wirelessly - up to 60 times a day - via the nationwide Sigfox-network and is processed in the BrainyBins system.
The employees have automatic access via app or PC to measurements, statistics, administration of emptying the containers etc.
The Sigfox-network is a safe, economical, and environment-friendly low-energy network, connecting the units to the internet with the purpose of getting things measurable and thus enable the IoT.
The contractor is connected
- The lorry driver might be a little worried because he fears having to empty fewer containers, but he shouldn't be, says Mads Sørensen. He just avoids spending time checking containers that turn out to be only half full, and for which it makes no sense to empty and invoice. This time he could spend for another customer. His administrative work is reduced because he gets the invoicing data directly via the BrainyBins app. It is a natural part of the project that the contractor will be connected to the system as the next step this autumn.
- When the contractor is connected, he gets the orders for the emptying directly from the system. So far, we are making the route planning ourselves, says Mads Sørensen. It is easy and manageable with the software from Maacks, which is an integrated part of the solution with the BrainyBins Ultra sensors. At the risk of sounding too commercial, it has a fantastic user interface, highlights Mads Sørensen.
Mads Sørensen also experiences other advantages. The complaints from citizens about the lack of emptying the waste containers can now easily be documented by the municipality, e.g., it is now possible to document whether the containers have been emptied or not.
Mads Sørensen highlights the good overview of the filling levels that the BrainyBins PickUp software provides for all containers.
More sensors for Fanø Municipality
In October 2022, Fanø Municipality ordered another batch of BrainyBins Radar sensors for their containers, which will be installed as soon as possible.