Good example of an enabling effect of GreenICT

One of my other areas of interest which I guess i will blog about is Green ICT. I am to some degree skeptical of some of the language around the “enabling effect” of information and communication technologies (ICT) – maybe I am not aware of enough examples -that could be!

Here is a great example of how ICT is enabling the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – an enabling effect – courtesy of the GreenICT review.


Connected refuse bins have helped councils in the Netherlands to cut their carbon footprint

 The City Council of Groningen is one of 25 local authorities, working with Vodafone M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and waste management business Mic-O-Data, to roll out 6,000 connected bins in housing estates across the country. Sustainability consultancy, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), has estimated that using the bins has helped the council cut its carbon footprint by a fifth.

TarDif zuil 2 groningenThe bins are fitted with a Vodafone M2M SIM that sends a daily status signal to the refuse collectors, alerting them when a bin is getting full. The data enables the refuse collectors to arrange for bins to be emptied only when they are full.

As a direct result, refuse collectors are now making fewer journeys and using less fuel. In some cases, councils now require fewer refuse trucks. ERM found that the City Council of Groningen had reduced its CO₂emissions by nearly 30 tonnes a year, a net saving of 18%, and reduced costs by €92,000. Across the Netherlands, the savings are expected to be even greater.

Waste management company Mic-O-Data started to work with Vodafone two years ago and now has a 30% share of the Netherlands’ waste management market

Review:  It’s a great example of how technology can help reduce carbon emissions and save money at the same time. There are huge opportunities for councils to make similar savings, only delivering services as and when required, particularly for things like infrastructure servicing and maintenance. ICT can significantly cut costs and the technology is well proven. It’s all part of a broader green ICT approach.

The possible downside is that the built-in intelligence can also be used for other things. In the case of the Netherlands councils the bins are for residents only and can only be opened using an ID card fitted with an RFID chip. It means local authorities can monitor who’s using the facilities and bill accordingly. ‘The initiative ensures resident accountability and encourages greater use of recycling facilities’. A commendable approach, but it may not go down so well everywhere, when even the collection of data from smart meters is seen by some as a threat to personal freedom.