Last year, the University of Washington realized it had a big waste problem. A sampling of the garbage at the campus's Red Square found that 61 percent was actually compostable. To make sure the compostable waste wasn't going out with the garbage, the university decided to seek a high-tech solution in the form of smart, solar-powered kiosks that collect garbage, compost and recyclables and communicate wirelessly when they need to be emptied.
The kiosks have lots of cool features. They consist of three bins, one for each kind of waste, that are programmed to a preset capacity based on worker safety. Sensors inside the bins alert the university's Recycling and Solid Waste Department by sending a text message when the bins are about to reach that capacity. The bins compact the waste they collect, allowing them to hold 500 percent more waste, which eliminates four out of five collection trips that the department used to do with the old bins, reducing fuel consumption.
The kiosks are connected to online software that lets the university check waste levels in real time and run history reports to monitor how much and what type of waste the university is producing to more efficiently plan collection schedules and waste reduction efforts.
Oh yeah, and the kiosks are fully solar powered.
Another part of this pilot project is low-tech, but equally important: education. Each kiosk features a billboard that explains exactly what type of waste goes in each bin and the benefits of recycling and composting. This part is essential because you can install as many compost bins as you want, but no one will use them if they don't know what compost is.