Technology has a role in moving toward a goal of zero waste, but so does the “soft” infrastructure of citizen activism and effective policies. No matter how smart a city is, however, getting to zero waste isn’t going to be easy. It will take the coordination of many factors, including not only technology but also citizen engagement and political will.
There’s no doubt that the Internet of Things will play an important role. For example, sensors in dumpsters and other waste receptacles can signal when they’re full and ready for pickup, yielding huge reductions in collection costs. Similar efficiency improvements will be implemented throughout the resource recovery system, resulting in better coordination of material transport to and through sorting equipment, recycling plants and composting facilities
But “soft” infrastructure elements will also have a role – the policies, regulations and strategies that guide the establishment and operation of modern recovery systems. And a key part of that soft infrastructure is a vital success factor that can all too easily be overlooked. In a recent paper focusing on Los Angeles, Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, identified citizen activism as the critical difference between communities with high versus low recycling rates.