“Maybe we can use tramlines to pick up plastic waste?” One way or another: how each city picks up its plastic waste
Reduce plastic waste! That's what we're striving for at PlastiCity. But different countries, different tactics. A new Plasticity report recommends that while in Ghent they could experiment with cargo boats, in The Hague they could split up the city in circles and provide each part with an adapted solution. They could even think of the tramlines to pick up plastic waste. Can you imagine?
Dr Regina Frei, Dr Mengfeng Gong and Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust are researchers working for the University of Portsmouth team conducting research in the logistics of plastic waste for Plasticity and have produced a report on logistic scenarios and simulations. Their research focuses on supply chains, logistics, operations, and sustainability.
Some things to keep in mind are:
- If we know which material needs to be collected, we can make sure to have a defined path for it afterwards. Smart recycling is the way to go;
- Automatic sorting of (plastic) waste is being developed at the moment;
- Barcodes or RFID can be used to facilitate automated sorting;
- We need to incentivise or oblige manufacturers to take their plastics back;
- Sorting at source and use of colour-coded bags to make things more efficient;
- Smart bins with sensors to indicate fill-level would allow us to empty the bins at the right time;
- Autonomous vehicles could be deployed for waste collection in some areas, allowing waste owners to deposit their materials on the vehicle, hence reducing the need for drivers.
- In future cities with pre-planned infrastructure, we could organise local drop points with suction tunnels to transport waste out of the city centre.
Different scenarios for each city
In Douai, France, companies accumulate waste in 40m3 containers. These are collected by lorries and taken to a sorting plant. This can be made more efficient by adding a extra trailer, which could reduce the travel distance, time needed and emissions generated. So, we can save costs but it also needs an investment for trailers and drivers with specialised driver licenses.
In Southend-On-Sea in the United Kingdom we’re dealing with mixed plastics. The idea is to organise 10 mini-hubs spread around town. In these mini hubs the plastic is accumulated in large containers, similar to what is used in Douai. We simulated two milk-runs to collect waste from companies in the high street and in an industrial estate, using an electrical Ford (Ford-E transit). The mini-hubs are then emptied by lorries that could run electrically rather than with conventional diesel.
In The Hague, The Netherlands, we have divided the city in three circular areas and explored the use of different vehicles for collecting waste in these zones. For example, we would use a CargoBike in the city center, an electric van in the city zone and in the outer zone we could use a bigger lorry, possibly hybrid or electrically operated. Later, we can identify what differences these make in costs, time and emissions generated.
For Ghent, Belgium, the simulation concept is based on a trial in another Belgian town, Herentals, where different plastics have been sorted into five colour-coded bags. The scenario in Ghent involves mini-hubs that are easily reachable by CargoBike and are close to tramways. The concept could be expanded to include a mini-hub by the river. This way, the materials collected at the mini-hibs could be transported out of the city centre not only by lorry but also by boat or tram. So there’s a variety of vehicles and transport that can be explored.
To end with, here are some more insights the PlastiCity logistics team came up with:
- The better information and the more data collected, the better and more meaningful the simulations will be;
- Some principles apply everywhere but the cities remain different;
- Different stakeholders have different approaches and ideas;
- And very important: reduce single use plastics because recycling alone isn’t going to solve the whole problem.