- Smart Bin system can be fitted on to existing garbage bins
- It regularly sends alerts to sanitation staff on fill-levels of dustbins
- It can be deployed anywhere with mobile phone connectivity
New Delhi: To put a lid on the spread of COVID-19 through waste generated at hospitals, clinics, public places and quarantine zones, Antariksh Waste Ventures Private Limited, a start-up incubated by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras has developed a ‘smart bin system’. While talking to NDTV about the innovation, Mahek Mahendra Shah, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the institute and founder of the start-up said that the idea behind the project was to find a way to clear dustbins before it overflow and become a point of contagion for all.
While talking to NDTV he said,
The virus can survive for days on surfaces and so there is an urgent need for revamping waste collection and disposal. We want to clear every bin before it overflows, by digitizing waste management processes through smart bins. From the waste collection, transportation, segregation, disposal to recycling, every process needs to be revamped quickly and technology will play a vital role in this transformation. Also in the post-COVID time, it is being predicted that there are high chances that waste management will suffer a shortage of the workforce. There will be fewer sanitation workers and so they need to be equipped with more skills and technology.
He further explained that the smart device named as AirBins is the Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled, where devices communicate with each other digitally. This allows remote monitoring of waste accumulation levels in the bins through a smartphone. This smart bin system can be retrofitted on to existing conventional garbage bins and on the new bins by fitting the system on the bin lids or nearby poles or walls. He said,
Currently, as we are dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, hazardous waste is being generated in hospitals, quarantine zones or red zone areas within cities. They are potential sources of coronavirus and can cause further spread within the locality. This makes timely clean-up of bins vital along with other best practices for disinfection to prevent further spread of COVID-19. AirBin smart bin system will provide additional support to the existing waste management system as it can generate alerts to sanitation teams at regular intervals on fill levels and on-demand clearance requests from end-users for faster disposal of contagious waste.
Five AirBins devices have been deployed on regular dustbins near Thiruvanmiyur Beach (Valmiki Nagar) on a trial basis and the innovation will hit the market in around five months.
Our Pilot (Valmiki Nagar, Chennai) – Smart Bins deployment Timeline – A long engineering and product journey! Many challenges and breakthroughs!
— AirBin™ – Smart Bin Systems (@AirBins) September 8, 2019
According to Krishna Mohan Ramachandran, Chief Resilience Officer, Resilient Chennai Project supported by Rockefeller Foundation working in collaboration with Greater Chennai Corporation,
The AirBins that we have been installed in Valmiki Nagar area on the pilot basis are quite useful. The biggest advantage of this technology is that it can help in mapping out the pattern of a particular area so that the municipal corporation can send the garbage truck before it is completely filled. This will not only help in effective waste management but will also help in keeping the hazardous waste from spilling or going into the hands of the informal waste pickers.
However, he highlighted that the only challenge with using AirBins is that it can work only at those places where a robust digital system is already in place, internet connection is continuously needed and all sanitation workers and supervisors need smartphones. He further said that Chennai administration is emphasising on waste segregation in three categories – biodegradable, recyclable and hazardous waste and has recommended that AirBin technology should be implemented on all bins that collect hazardous waste.
A similar smart bin technology was implemented by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in June 2019. 40 sensor-based underground bins were installed in NDMC area to manage the waste effectively while maintaining the aesthetics of the city. According to Shakuntala Shrivastava, a senior official at NDMC, while the smart dustbins have been useful in managing waste since last one year, these are not making much of an impact during COVID because these are common dustbins and no bio-hazardous waste can be put in these bins. Bio-hazardous waste generated at homes, hospitals and quarantine centres need to be segregated at source and are being collected separately. She said,
A person sitting in the control room is continuously monitoring these bins and as soon as they get an alert from the bin, a truck is sent for emptying the garbage. But to fight the waste generated during COVID-19, we are relying more on segregation.
The IIT Madras start-up aims to supply the first batch of 200 AirBin devices across India in the next few months with long-term plans to deliver one lakh units for 100 smart cities in the country. The device can work in all weather conditions. It is operated on battery which runs for four months on a single charge.
While the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has issued guidelines for the management – collection, treatment and disposal- of waste generated during the diagnostics and treatment of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients to check the spread of infection, faster emptying of bins is crucial for sustainable efforts towards curbing the pandemic, said Mr. Shah.
The start-up is currently working on a short-range Ulta Voilet light-based design of AirBin which will be able to reduce contagion at waste collection points drastically. According to the researchers at the Centre for Radiological Research, Columbia University, UVC lights are safe for humans and destructive for pathogens and thus can help fight the spread of coronavirus.