Green key – for better household recycling
As an individual, it can be bewildering trying to be environmentally friendly. It is not only about what you buy and how it was produced. You must also pay attention to what happens after you are finished using it. Instead of ending up in a landfill: can it be repaired, reused, or recycled?
The drive to reduce the mining and processing of finite resources has made recycling essential. Increasingly, the loop is closed, and materials, such as metals, are turned into so-called secondary raw materials. This is essential on an industrial level, but households can also do their part. For example, the energy wasted when you throw away one single aluminum can is equivalent to the same can filled with gasoline.
Today, most municipalities in the western world provide recycling centers. Here, the residents can take waste or discarded goods which are too big for household recycling bins, or which need special recycling.
Accessibility a key success factor
However, accessibility is vital to make this successful. For example, what if someone has loaded the car, and maybe a trailer, to find the recycling center closed when they get there? Depending on your disposition, you may come back another day – or dump everything outside the recycling center.
Or maybe you know that the local recycling center is closed, so you drive to another town or city. But the extra miles will add to your environmental footprint. Not good.
When they calculate the extra costs, many small towns are reluctant to extend the recycling center opening hours. But they miss out on the chance to both reap eco-benefits and to earn some goodwill.
Useful solution for recycling
Seeing this challenge, some ingenious people in western Sweden set out to find a solution. Which, indeed, they did. The answer is called Green Key, which has proven a successful solution for smaller recycling centers. Today, it is installed at 18 places in Sweden. One is in the village of Genarp, located in Lund Municipality, some 30 kilometers east of Malmö in southwestern Sweden.
Green Key makes it possible for private persons to visit the local recycling center, even when it is not staffed. The service does not apply to business owners. It is a vast improvement for the residents who have a Green Key. Now they can visit the recycling center between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day, instead of seven hours each week when there is staff at the center.
The City of Lund’s Cleansing Department (LRV) initiated the project in January 2019. It was an immediate success.
The Green Key initiative is popular. People see it as a good public service, one local user says. And it’s good for the community spirit. We help each other, and you can always ask someone if there’s something that you don’t know.
Proved an instant success
The Green Key is either linked to your driving license or an app on your cell phone. But before you can start using the service, you must attend mandatory training.
“During the training, you get a theory lesson and a guided tour of the recycling center. You get specific information about what applies at the various recycling containers,” explains Sigmund Kaleta, LRV.
In Genarp, with a population of around 3,000, some 600 people have so far attended the training and got their Green Key. Initially, 40–60 people signed up each week. Today, the number is 5–10 per week.
We register all Green Key visits to the recycling center. Last month we had on average ten visits per day, Kaleta says. There are more during weekends, and it varies depending on the weather and season. For example, this time of year, there is a lot of garden waste.
A two-part system
Before Genarp, several recycling centers in western Sweden had already installed the Green Key solution. It is made up of two parts: an access control system and an IP-camera surveillance system.
Omnigon AB provides the access control system and is the brain behind the solution. The company is a spin-off from the University of Skövde. When you arrive at the recycling center, you show your driving license or mobile phone at the card reader. The gate will open for 30 seconds. When you leave the center, the gate will open automatically open when you pass a sensor. After you have exited, the gate will close after 30 seconds.
For the surveillance, Axis has provided high-end PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) IP cameras that cover both the gates and the recycling containers. The video footage is sent to LRV’s central control room, where it can be monitored in real-time as well as stored for later reference.
Have had a positive effect
Apart from improving the public service and saving money on personnel costs, LRV reaps other benefits from the Green Key installation. The IP cameras make it possible to monitor that visitors throw their waste in the proper container.
Kaleta explains, The visitors are registered when they enter, so we can go through the footage to identify who threw what where or threw away forbidden waste. If there are recurring faults, we can send a text message to the Green Key owners.
So far, the results at the Green Key recycling centers show that break-ins, thefts, and littering have decreased significantly after installing the system. The extended opening hours also means that the visitors’ stress levels have gone down.
Improves safety and security
For municipalities, another Green Key advantage is the scalability of the surveillance system. It is easy to add more cameras if required. You can also add network audio for broadcasting live messages.
By adding intelligent video analytics, such as license plate recognition, you can improve the monitoring, and thus accountability. It will also improve safety and security, for example, by adding analytics that detects if someone is suddenly lying down on the ground. And, with enhanced safety and security, you will be able to extend the opening hours.
Going forward, LRV is considering implementing the service in another of the Lund Municipality villages.
I’d say that the solution currently works better at smaller sites, Kaleta says. It gets more complicated at bigger recycling centers where there are considerably more visitors. We're not there yet, but I think we’ll maybe see it in five years.