Dumpster diving has gone high-tech.
“We take pictures three to five times a day and then use artificial intelligence to automatically process those images to determine a couple key data points,” said Jason Gates of Compology, a waste and recycling metering company.
Gates said when China stopped buying recycling materials from the U.S. in 2018, it forced American business to develop a recycling infrastructure domestically.
Compology looks to do just that by installing cameras inside commercial and industrial dumpsters, taking pictures several times a day and using artificial intelligence to analyze a dumpster’s fullness and how often it’s serviced.
“That’s important because understanding how much waste you produce and how much recycling you produce allows you to benchmark where you’re at,” Gates said.
Gates says about 35% of dumpsters in America are overserviced. So, keeping data on what’s in a dumpster helps companies reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, increase recycling efforts and also keep trash haulers off the road.
“What happens is if you have an eight-yard dumpster going three days a week, you find out that dumpster is 70% or 60% full at the time it’s emptied, you’re paying for air to be removed,” said Peter Spano of Global Trash Solutions, a full-service waste and recycling provider.
Spano’s company represents about 10% of all McDonald’s locations in the U.S., all of which have started using Compology’s technology, which he says saves time, money and the environment.
“In one year, it was the equivalent of a dump truck driving from the southern tip of Mexico to the northern tip of Canada,” Spano said.
Compology has expanded its services across North America with several major restaurant chains and retailers using this new type of trash tracking technology.
Gates projects that Compology will continue to grow, and that this high-tech dumpster data can inspire change and improve sustainability.
“People can make a tremendous difference just by making small decisions about how they’re throwing out they’re coffee cup or cardboard box,” he said.