Facility Dude

The importance of GIS and cloud-based systems in solid waste management

By Emma Finch
Sep 09, 2015

Government, Technology

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Running a municipality requires a collective effort from a huge number of workers, all of whom must operate in tandem to achieve the desired goal. In addition to the public work "superheroes" like police officers and firefighters, there are a whole slew of other essential personnel who get overlooked by the general public more often than not.

Perhaps the most significant example of these important yet chronically under appreciated government workers is sanitation engineers. These professionals manage the collection and disposal of solid waste - a crucial function, as anyone would tell you.

Providing sanitation workers with the tools they need to excel at their jobs benefits not just the workers, but the communities they serve as well. If your government organization is already familiar with GIS and cloud-based systems, it's likely you're already aware of the benefits these services can provide to your day-to-day operations. Here are some ways that you can harness the power of GIS, the cloud and mobile technology to help your workers clean up the city more efficiently.

Route planning

Waste collection and management is unique in that it's tied directly to population. Simply put, the more populated an area is, the greater the waste management requirements to keep things running smoothly.

Effective personnel management is key to planning this facet of your waste management strategy. GIS data can help you visualize which areas of a city or town are the most densely populated, or even which parts of town produce the most waste. Commercial and industrial areas, for example, tend to create more garbage than residential zones. This information is useful when it comes to determining which teams, equipment and personnel to commit to a given part of town.

Landfill mapping

Landfills are a crucial part of nearly every waste management strategy. Landfills require careful regulation and monitoring to ensure that the waste doesn't exceed the size of the void that the landfill rests on. Similarly, officials are responsible for keeping track of preventive measures such as the liner insulating waste from groundwater, rainfall or pest intervention.

These are complicated concerns, especially since waste collection is a never-ending endeavor and new garbage is introduced to landfills regularly. Fortunately, GIS systems can help alleviate the stress involved with the process by creating a visual map of the landfill void. This provides a reliable and real-time look at the size of the landfill versus how big it may have grown. GIS can also help by providing comparison between the density of the landfill and that of the surrounding area. This information is important for preventing settling that is common to landfills.

Planning future facilities

Especially in larger cities, it's important to plan for future growth and how that may affect the need for additional storage facilities. There are many factors that can affect how, when and where a new waste management facility ends up, and many of them are related to the population. After all, it's understandable that residents would be less than thrilled to learn that a new landfill, recycling center or yard waste facility is opening up just down the street.

GIS can help by allowing you to compare visual representations of available land with residential zoning maps. In this way, it's easier to determine which areas are more highly populated and therefore less likely to be viable candidates for new facilities. Waste360 reported that additional recycling centers or other material recovery facilities should be placed based on location compared to the prospective community, including considerations such as traffic patterns and other factors that may affect how easily accessible the new facility is.

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