Enevo Sensors Monitor Trash, Recycling Bins for Optimized Collection

The four-year-old Finnish company provides a solution that tells municipalities and private collection companies how full their waste containers are.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 29, 2014

In 2010, Fredrik Kekäläinen and Johan Engström, two Finnish telecommunications experts, set out to develop a system to help individuals conserve energy within their homes. Instead, their paths quickly diverted into the waste industry, leading to the creation of a company called Enevo.

"Johan mentioned to Fredrik about the inefficient and expensive waste-management services he was forced to pay at his housing association," explains Olli Gunst, Enevo's marketing manager. "This conversation led to the idea of creating smart sensors that optimize waste logistics and make it more efficient."

The Enevo sensing unit contains ultrasonic sonar sensors for calculating what percentage of space within a trash container is filled.
Kekäläinen and Engström set about designing an Internet-connected sensor that could be mounted inside a trash bin and monitor its contents. Once it was nearly filled to capacity, the sensors would trigger an alert to the waste hauler, indicating that the bin needed to be emptied. The pair envisioned that this could completely disrupt the conventional trash-collection model, by which trucks empty bins on a set schedule, regardless of whether those bins are full. Plus, it could be used for collecting recyclable and compostable materials as well. It could also mean fuel savings, labor savings and more efficient operations overall, they realized.

In 2012, Enevo announced it had begun a yearlong pilot project with Itä-Uudenmaan Jätehuolto (IUJ), a Finnish waste-management firm that installed Enevo's sensors in waste bins at 23 collection sites. At the pilot's conclusion, IUJ had reduced the number of collections it made by 25 percent, while saving anywhere from 15 to 60 percent on monthly operational costs. Based on this result, IUJ signed a multiyear service contract and expanded its Enevo deployment. Enevo has also signed deals with collection companies in Norway, the Czech Republic and Denmark. Paperinkeräys Oy, a recycling service that serves customers in Helsinki, employs Enevo's technology to manage the collection of cardboard recycling containers throughout the city. Enevo recently raised $8 million in funding from a range of investors throughout the United States, Europe and elsewhere, which it plans to use to expand its business into new markets worldwide.

Here's how the system works. The Enevo sensing unit contains motion, temperature and ultrasonic sonar sensors. The ultrasonic sensor determines the height of the bin's contents, relative to the location of the sensor, which is installed just under the lid. This sensor takes a number of measurements, Gunst explains, based on algorithms Enevo has developed for determining the fill-levels in different type of waste containers. "To date," he says, "our system has been tested in over 140 different container types," and with more than 30 different kinds of waste, including paper, various types of plastic, compost, oils, metal and textiles.

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