Curtin University researchers are partnering with the Town of Bassendean, the WA Local Government Association and other industry partners to conduct a waste tracking research project.
The project, Developing Smart Resource Tracking System, involves installing ID sensors on bins to track who they belong to, weighing the bins as they’re being picked up and scanning the type of rubbish that is being thrown out.
The data is then fed into a mobile app that advises householders on how to improve waste reduction – and to the research team.
Researchers expect to receive information that will improve the understanding of household waste habits and patterns and in turn, develop ways to encourage recycling and a more circular economy.
Curtin University environment lecturer and program leader Atiq Zaman said the app aims to identify the types of product packaging that are bought and thrown out by households.
“The way the app works is that the mobile application would have a bar code tracking system,” said Dr Zaman.
Users of the app will scan the barcodes of their shopping receipts on the app, which reveals the product packages that are recyclable according to their local waste disposal infrastructure.
Curtin’s staff predict this could result in a five to 10 per cent reduction of waste contamination and a 10 per cent improvement in recycling efficiency.
In a previous interview with The West Australian, Dr Zaman reassured the public that this system would not be an invasion of people’s privacy.
“Efforts to increase recycling, as noble as they might be, should take into account everyone’s inherent right to a basic level of privacy,” said Dr Zaman.
“If they’re not willing to participate it can’t be forced – my understanding is people would be willing to participate.”
Town of Bassendean Mayor Renee McLennan also rejects privacy concerns saying residents have nothing to fear and only more to gain.
“[The app] It’s like a Fit Bit for waste management,” said Mayor McLennan.
“Just as health-conscious people welcome their movement being monitored and are motivated to do better, participants in this trial will get a really clear picture of their waste management and hopefully be motivated to avoid generating waste and recycling more.
“We are looking at the whole system – from product design to disposal.”
Research findings will also help identify problematic packaging and ways to reduce contamination of recycled material through better design and encourage behaviour changes.
The Bassendean Council has supported an application to seek government funding and is currently looking for 1,500 households to participate in the waste tracking project.
The project is expected to commence on 1 July 2019 and to reach completion by 30 June 2022.