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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Environmental Assistance and Customer Service - RFID-tags

Environmental Assistance and Customer Service

Radio-Frequency Identification Tags

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For more information from the Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach:
Joseph Fitzpatrick

1639 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1639
(919) 707-8121

Background

Radio-Frequency Identification tags (RFID) similar to those used by retail stores and public libraries for inventory control and theft prevention can help local governments gather information about curbside solid waste and recycling collections. RFID technology uses communications via electromagnetic waves to exchange data between a reader and an object such as a cart or dumpster for identification and tracking purposes.

How can rfid tags be used in solid waste collection systems?

RFID tags used in solid waste and recycling are attached to receptacles (carts/dumpsters) in a manner that protects tags from environmental conditions. For data collection purposes, a reader and a passive RFID tag work together as each receptacle is emptied. The reader embedded into the truck captures the tag's ID and electronically records data such as location and the time of service. 

Before RFID, the industry guessed at set outs. RFID tracks program participation and set outs by address. When coupled with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, truck-based scales, routing software and data provided by the local government, the RFID system creates a powerful tool that can be used for customer service, collection of program data, measurement of collection system efficiency and tracking inventories of carts and front-loading containers. As the 5th utility after water, wastewater, gas, and electric, solid waste is the only one without a meter. RFID is now solid waste's meter.

  • Service Verification: RFID's use is becoming more widespread as a tool to manage franchise contractor performance. It provides contract managers with real time visibility to collection services. It can even be used to monitor the flow of waste to designated disposal sites.
  • Education and Outreach: RFID provides for targeted outreach and education program efforts. Messaging can be customized to the program user based on their participation or lack thereof. No longer is it necessary to send the same post card to every resident.
  • Asset and inventory management tool: Based on individual cost, a cart is not a capital asset, but when combined together as a group, the cart system is a capital asset. Without RFID, there is no way to track this asset's whereabouts, or life cycle for warranty purposes.
  • Operations Management and Cost Control: Data is used to provide collection managers with on route metrics to help them manage their operation and control costs of operations.
  • Route Optimization: Before RFID, route optimizers used postal addresses to route vehicles along street centerlines using generally available maps. Now, route optimizers can use collection data that includes the latitude and longitude of the actual container placement, making routes more efficient and the optimizer process cleaner and faster.
  • Franchise Contract Management: RFID is an effective tool to manage franchise hauler contracts for compliance.
  • Incentive-Based Recycling: RFID systems can be used to create collection systems that encourage and reward recycling program participation. Whether its utility billing credits or coupon programs, RFID is the meter to manage incentives. Focus efforts on areas that have low participation rather than a global approach and tailor incentives to those specific residents. This type of system uses RFID tags to indentify each household's cart, track participation and even weigh the amount of recyclables generated to provide a reward. For weight-based incentive systems, trucks must be outfitted with a scale and RFID reader. One example of an incentive-based recycling system that is catching on in municipalities across the U.S. is RecycleBank. This system tracks how many pounds of recyclables each household produces per month, and the households can then receive rewards points or dollars that can be redeemed at local partnering retailers.
  • Pay-as-You-Throw: When used with variable rate collection systems, also known as bill-by-volume or pay-by-weight, RFID tags can be used to improve the accuracy and efficiency of billing. Carts with RFID tags can be read as they are serviced. The data gathered can be processed into an individual customer invoice. Trucks may also be fitted with scales to include weight data if customer billing is adjusted by the weight or volume of material collected. RFID is an essential tool in PAYT programs to keep carts assigned to addresses. 
What are the different types of rfid tags?
  • Passive RFID tags have no power source and require an external electromagnetic field created by the tag reader to initiate a signal transmission. Passive RFID tags are the type most commonly used in solid waste applications.
  • Active RFID tags contain a battery and can transmit signals once an external source, called an "Interrogator," has been successfully identified.
  • Battery Assisted Passive (BAP) RFID tags require an external source to "wake up" but have significantly higher forward-link capability providing greater range.

Most major cart manufacturers have switched from low frequency RFID tags to more reliable ultra high frequency tags. Most are also now using tags with non-proprietary coding which allows decisions about data management systems to be made at a later date. Unless you plan to use your cart manufacturer's data management system, it is important to check with your manufacturer to ensure that its RFID tags are non-proprietary. Use of a non-proprietary system will allow you to implement the data management system of your choosing when the carts are distributed or at a later date.

What are the costs?

Costs to embed RFID tags on carts at production have been provided from several vendors to help guide budget decisions. The use of vendor's pricing is for comparative shopping only, not an endorsement of a vendor by DEAO.

Cart Vendors

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