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Northern trials rail industry's first smart bin

17 • November • 2020

Northern trials rail industry's first smart bin

Biffa, Northern and IoTSG are trialling twelve smart bins, the first to market within the rail industry and will target specific waste management areas in challenging conditions and locations

17 November 2020


Biffa, Northern and IoT Solutions Group trial the UK rail industry’s first smart bin.

Biffa, Northern and IoT Solutions Group (IoTSG) have collaborated in a phased trial of twelve smart bins at locations on the Northern network, which will run until January. The trial is the first to market within the rail industry and will target specific waste management areas to road test IoTSG’s smart bin monitoring solution to ensure they are fit for purpose in challenging conditions and locations.

Biffa is the waste contractor for Northern, the UK’s largest geographical train operator and carries out an average of 1200 lifts per month at stations and depots across numerous waste streams. IoTSG’s technology within the waste industry can be used to monitor the capacity and usage of waste and litter bins to bring about efficiencies in waste collection services and improved recycling initiatives. 

IoTSG’s smart bins aim to provide insight into a bin users’ behaviours, report on the volumes of waste being disposed of in each container as well as the frequency of waste disposal. The initial trial is to be in the North East of England. This region was selected to support and strengthen Biffa’s current data provision, support Biffa’s clients on targeted projects and provide a robust test on the system.

The full smart bin system solution includes bin level sensing hardware devices as well as a cloud platform for data management, alert notifications and analytics. Hardware bin sensors will report not only the bin’s fill level to detect the need for emptying but also the bin lid position to detect whether the bin lid has been left open and if the bin has been tipped over.

This solution is also going to provide additional insight related to recycling rates across the trial sites, allowing Northern to improve its environmental initiatives and demonstrate the improvements made.

Northern began the trial in October to try and find a suitable solution that could provide more accurate data and “monitor the true benefits of improvement initiatives we put in place.”

Through multi-functional sensors, the solution also has the potential to assist in identifying if people are sleeping in the bins. Biffa has been working with charity StreetLink to raise awareness of people sleeping in and around commercial bins in their People In Bins campaign.

Northern said, “As the sensors can report the fill level of the bin, this will ensure that lifts are made when the container is nearing capacity rather than periodically, to avoid unnecessary collections, thus significantly reducing costs and ensuring the required capacity is available during seasonal increases or planned and unplanned events that affect the amount of waste produced.”

Email and SMS alerts are sent based on pre-defined fill levels, allowing Biffa to take action and avoid overflowing containers, causing customer and environmental issues.

A second phase is also planned for the future provision of gated access control to provide granular insight into per customer usage of the waste disposal containers.