Smart Bin Solutions: A UK First Trial - Biffa
Biffa truck and bin outside building at night

Improving sustainability through technology – Northern Trains and Biffa trial innovation to increase recycling

11 Jul 2022
3 mins

Committed to improving recycling rates across their service, Northern Trains, alongside waste management partner Biffa, are deploying smart bin sensors at 70 stations across the North East. Manufactured in the UK by IoT Solutions Group, these sensors give Northern Trains real-time recycling volumes from individual bins, helping them monitor and improve recycling rates. 

With recycling key to any sustainability plan, Northern Trains have an ambitious target to recycle 70% of the waste produced across their sites this year. Measuring these rates accurately and making quantifiable improvements quickly is therefore essential. This solution also allows the team to adjust recycling schemes in response to seasonal trends, preventing bin overflow and the resulting environmental pollution.

Nick Coleman, Energy & Environment Support Manager, who helps manage the project, commented, “The data that these sensors provide is so valuable for our sustainability targets. By knowing where we are now, we can accurately set a benchmark and identify how we can improve. With the sensors continually monitoring the fill levels, we can quickly and easily measure the impact of various initiatives to encourage more recycling, helping us reach that important 70% goal.”

Biffa is the waste contractor for Northern Trains, the UK’s largest geographical train operator, carrying out an average of 1,200 lifts per month of waste and recycling bins. The installation of the sensors this summer is the next phase of an extensive project for Northern and the UK’s leading sustainable waste management company. 

Biffa’s progressive approach to business and innovation was vital in developing  and testing this solution as an additional service for Northern Trains. Chris Griffin, Biffa’s Head of Commercial Developments praised the collaboration. “The Biffa team are proud to be supporting Northern Trains with their sustainability goals with this hugely beneficial technology. IoT Solutions Group have been a great partner to work with and have demonstrated that exploring new technology doesn’t have to be complicated! The ease and speed of the installation means that there has also been minimal service disruption.” 

As well as continually monitoring the fill level of the bin, these smart bin sensors also monitor and record the lid position and bin temperature, a valuable additional when managing the security at remote locations. IoT Solutions Group deliver customised packages for their clients; for Biffa and Northern Trains, there is a lot of technology working in the background. Clever algorithms are applied to the fill level data, converting it to an estimated weight to deliver real-time, accurate recycling data. These sensors can be installed anywhere in the UK and automatically relay the data to a private online portal via secure data networks. Check out our partnership with GB Railfreight to transport waste via rail. We are aiming to transport 25,000 tonnes of hazardous waste to landfill sites.

Emma Mahy, CEO and Co-founder of IoT Solutions Group, feels honoured to be delivering solutions for this important project. “We started the company four years ago to deliver solutions for key data collection and insight challenges, and we are thrilled to be working with Biffa and Northern Trains. Our team thrives on making valuable data easily accessible in a useable way to make a real difference, which is especially important for measured sustainability improvements.”

The project clearly demonstrates how technological innovation can support sustainability goals, especially when committed and forward-thinking companies come together to tackle a single objective. 

Device on bin lid