Accurately accounting for LATS

LATS requires a wealth of data to be gathered. So any technology that makes measuring this process simple, yet accurate, is welcomed, says Rob Clarey

The landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS) poses some difficult questions for all those involved. Not least is the practicality of collecting, collating and reporting the data needed by the Environment Agency.

The sheer amount of data that needs collecting makes a paper-based recording system unwieldy at the very least, since information needs entering several times. It is here at the human interface that there is the potential for error - one person inputting so much data is almost bound to make mistakes.

Consider waste being diverted from landfill. There are numerous European waste code (EWC) categories, several of which cover different types of recyclable waste. Most of these categories have not in the past been measured, but now they need accurate recording and reporting.

Organisations need to record the weight of waste in tonnes, the area of origin, the waste disposal authority, the EWC code, the EWC standard description, any treatment at the landfill, the identification of the transfer station if used and the date and time. In theory, all the figures from disposal authorities, transfer stations and landfill operators should tally. All waste should be traceable by type and origin.

Such a challenge is not new for those supplying weighing technology - whether hardware, such as weighbridges, beltweighers and onboard weighing or IT systems and reporting methods. With weighbridge technology, for instance, suppliers have been providing systems that not only collect the data but that also store, report, collate and provide it to an organisation's central system for a number of years. This is exactly what the EA is demanding.

Keep it simple
Systems for the waste industry already exist, but may need to be developed to meet the specific needs of individual councils. Developing a solution is not a prescriptive exercise - it involves working in partnership. Our experience suggests that the simpler you can make the system for the people actually using it, the better and more accurate results you will get - whether this is for onboard weighing or for weighbridges.

Minimise human intervention and bear in mind that your system needs to be fast to maintain vehicle throughput on-site.

For a weighbridge system, short cut keys, stored vehicle tares and instant recall of customer and vehicle data all make life easier. For driver-operated consoles, operator prompts also guide the user quickly and smoothly through the whole process. Taking this one step further, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) makes data collection even simpler, more accurate and faster.

Typically, a vehicle will approach the weighbridge and the camera will record its registration number. Once the number plate is recognised, the vehicle is weighed and processed. On exiting the site, the ANPR will identify the registration number again and the weighbridge will capture the empty vehicle weight so that the amount of waste can be calculated.

Developments such as these automate data entry for simpler and faster operation, helping to minimise input errors and reduce vehicle queuing. As for reporting, software systems can provide data in several different formats to suit requirements. While information about waste has always existed, there has never before been a requirement for such detailed records. The challenge is to install the infrastructure necessary - both hardware and software.

LATS has set the industry two challenges. First, to find sustainable, realistic methods of reducing biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill and second, to measure and record this data accurately. Without the measurement tools in place, how do you know whether or not you have succeeded?

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