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Smart Waste Management in South Korea

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Many countries are drowning in mountains of solid waste, commonly known as garbage or junk, produced by people on a daily basis.
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Many countries are drowning in mountains of solid waste, commonly known as garbage or junk, produced by people on a daily basis. With increasing urbanization, waste disposal has become a major challenge for all countries, while people always take basic waste collection systems in cities for granted, thinking that this service is forever available until they reach a point where bins are full and difficult to manage. Due to population growth and the urbanization that the world has experienced recently, global waste has increased in cities to reach nearly 2 billion tons in 2016. This called for the adaptation of waste collection operations to ensure the cleanliness of cities. This number is expected to double to nearly 4 billion tons by 2050 due to consumer-oriented urban population growth.

The majority of existing waste management systems rely on waste collection services in cities and regular transportation along pre-determined routes. The garbage is then dumped and recycled whether the bin was full or not, as the static nature of the system requires emptying all bins, even those that are half full, thus wasting unnecessary amounts of fuel and overusing the city's resources. Today's manual collection methods are resource intensive. However, the good news is that the Internet of Things can help transform this system into data-driven collection operations. IoT can enable automation through physical electronic systems that will change the way waste is managed. Some cities have already started using IoT and sensors simultaneously to power smart waste management systems.

For example, Songdo, the new smart city located 40 miles away to the east of Seoul, is designed to convey the sci-fi experience in South Korea in order to draw businesses and families away from Seoul. In 2000, Songdo was a stretch of tidal flats, until the government of South Korea added 500 million tons of sand to build a new commercial zone near the international airport. Songdo was designed with sensors to monitor the temperature, energy use, and traffic flow. In theory, these sensors could alert people when a bus is due or may inform local entities about any accidents or issues. Environmental standards are largely taken into account when designing many of these innovations, such as providing electric vehicle charging stations or water recycling systems to replace clean drinking water when cleaning toilets in offices.

The waste disposal system is the most impressive innovation to be implemented in the city. Basically, there are no rubbish trucks in this city. When garbage is dumped in bins distributed across city apartments, kitchens, halls, and offices, it is sucked automatically through a series of pressurized pneumatic tubes into a network of underground tunnels and tubes. Since it acts as a link between all residential and office buildings, these tubes eliminate the need for street garbage bins or garbage trucks. The system connects to a central waste-processing facility called the “Third Zone Automated Waste Collection Plant.” Waste is then sorted and recycled, and organic waste is transferred to incinerators to generate energy, while a small amount of the remaining waste is placed in landfills. When establishing Songdo, officials made sure it had great mechanical capabilities to only employ as few as seven employees. This is the best vision for the future - a cleaner, quieter, more efficient city, without any trucks on the streets and free of pollution or scattered pieces of garbage waiting to be collected. By relying on a highly efficient and effective data management system, Sangdo aims to recycle 76% of its waste by the end of 2020.

A starting point for the Songdo waste disposal system is the use of underground bin systems, which began to spread significantly across Europe. Bin chutes placed on pavements outside homes feed rubbish into underground containers that are then hoisted out by specialist vehicles. Homeowners no longer need individual bins cluttering up their properties, and trucks are traveling less frequently. When the system was installed in a UK suburb last year, it replaced 9,000 wheelie bins.

The use of this automated waste collection system eliminates the need for garbage trucks to drive around the city as with the traditional system. The system will make use of the energy contained in the waste and convert it into usable energy. On another note, Songdo's waste management system enhances waste management efficiency and reduces the city's environmental footprint. Waste is no longer a liability in Songdo, it rather became part of the assets that generate energy and reduce the impact of landfills.





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