Government awards £400k for digital waste tracking

Projects include research into tracking waste through electronic chips and sensors, looking at common reporting platforms, the use of blockchain and new data analytics

The government has awarded £400,000 of funding to tackle the challenge of tracking waste through innovative digital solutions.

Five companies have been awarded up to £80,000 each for their projects, which include research into tracking waste through electronic chips and sensors, looking at common reporting platforms, the use of blockchain and new data analytics.

The innovative solutions are aimed at helping track waste from its source through its treatment and final disposal and play their part in helping achieve zero avoidable waste in the UK by 2050.

At the end of a three-month feasibility stage, up to two projects may be selected and funded up to £500,000 each to develop and field test a prototype under a second phase of GovTech Catalyst, which is expected to open later this year.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We want to move towards a more circular economy, where waste is valued at a resource and reused. We are also committed to cracking down on waste criminals who exploit the system.”

Winning projects

Anthesis’ project will design and test the feasibility of an innovative waste tracking system called ‘Vastum’, which is expected to “reliably and securely” record all waste movements in the UK, allowing waste to be effectively tracked to its final destination. It will ensure waste producers and managers comply with regulations and help regulators identify and take action against illegal waste crime.

The new tracker is to help bring together the many forms of waste data that are currently being collected into one new system. Anthesis will undertake a feasibility assessment for the waste tracking concept based on a blockchain approach, applying proven technology mainly used in the finance sector.

Dsposal’s KnoWaste project is designed to bring a smart waste solution in two parts. The first is a simple, free to use waste app, which can be used by any person or organisation to deal with their waste correctly – from picking a licensed waste company to checking their credentials and paying for the job when it’s been carried out compliantly.

The second part is the design of an open data standard for waste on which a central database will be built. This is expected to connect the separate systems currently in use, providing regulators with the oversight they need and the industry with the insight it requires.

International Synergies Limited’s System for Waste Enhancement, Evaluation and Tracking (SWEET) project will demonstrate the feasibility of creating a digital solution that will simplify current data entry processes through big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

It will record and track individual movements of waste through the economy, provide an innovative solution to maximise the value extracted from resources, support the elimination of waste crime through tracking of waste movements in real time and validate collectors and receivers against registered lists for all sites.

PragmatIC’s technology platform creates flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs) that are thinner than human hair and can be easily embedded into any surface, said to be ideal for everyday Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) products.

The vision for the future is that they will be applied to products via inlays and labels using standard manufacturing lines, and each individual product will be assigned a unique ID (UID). As the UID stays with the item throughout its life, by tapping on the product at any time the database could be read and the data could be updated if required. For example, the wholesaler or retailer could tap to check authenticity and provenance, plus location data could be added; then when the consumer taps, details of local recycling information specific to the actual item or packaging type could be delivered.

The company will demonstrate the concept of attaching FlexICs to products and accessing the data that has been assigned to their unique IDs using low cost readers.

Topolytics addresses the waste tracking challenge by mapping and analysing the generation, movement and fate of waste materials from waste producers, through the waste value chain to the ultimate destination – whether this be disposal, refuse derived fuel, recycling, remanufacture or reuse.

The company will analyse household, municipal, commercial, construction and hazardous waste and build maps of the waste movements system across four areas of the UK, fiving a range of metropolitan, rural and industrial environments.

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