Education and enforcement
Typically, reducing the amount of contamination in a given recycling stream with the CScore system can happen in a few different ways.
"One is through highly targeted consistent outreach and coaching," Gates explains. "Not only are we automating the identification of contamination, we're automating the process for showing waste generators how not to contaminate. "It's not a novel concept - other people have been doing this for years. We're just automating it so it's scalable, affordable and even more effective.
"For example, we can show a sandwich shop business with hundreds of locations that 25 locations are consistently contaminating. We can then deliver messages through text or email with time-stamped pictures of the contamination as educational material to say, ‘here's what you should change about your behaviour so that you're not contaminating your container anymore.'
"It also greatly benefits haulers, recyclers and municipalities," he continues. "The haulers are going to get a cleaner recycling stream, which in turn reduces costs for recyclers in sorting and separation of materials and helps municipalities measure against diversion goals."
Compology also provides actionable data for enforcement. "We have found that a lot of contracts contain the ability to bill customers for contamination," he says. "So, rather than increasing rates across the board to subsidize the folks that are contaminating the most, CScore now allows haulers and regulators to bill those customers that are actually contaminating, for the actual amounts of contamination they are putting into the container."
He says by standardizing the measurement, it allows haulers and regulators to develop what they call a rubric. For instance, one count or less is forgiven, two to three counts is considered light contamination, which may have one billing rate, while four or more counts could have a billing rate that is higher.
"Our clients are even starting to change the routes of trucks based on contamination levels," he says. "If a container is too highly contaminated, our haulers can now take it off of a recycling route and put it onto a landfill garbage route.
"Cameras in containers combined with CScore provides the ‘story of contamination' by bringing consistent visibility and tracking through remote monitoring over an entire container fill-cycle."
He continues, "When conducting a waste audit, it's no longer just about manually opening the lid and seeing what material is sitting top, or requiring a driver to get out of the cab to look. It's really about being able to remotely see and understand what is going on with a given waste generator, and their behaviour over time using a central database of daily and historical data."
Building a data-driven future
Until recently, international recycling markets such as China have been willing to take highly contaminated materials at a relatively low rate. "Our industry built business models with the assumption that those opportunities were going to last forever," Gates says. "The reality now, with the Chinese recycling economy not accepting most recycled material from North America, is that the model has to change. I believe strongly that technology and artificial intelligence can be a tool to make a recycling model that is profitable and sustainable for a long time to come."
The ability to consistently and reliably collect data and make it actionable has become very important to this shift. Gates says while there are lots of different ways to collect data, Compology's focus is on providing visibility and more importantly, making sure that Compology presents data in an easily digestible way that makes taking action easy.
"I think there are many ways to collect data, and there are lots of different pieces of information you can look at," he says. "But it's really about taking that information and turning it into something that everyone can take action on - whether it's changing a route, delivering a new piece of education or using it to inform the writing of a new policy." RPN