Sulo container & ID system aid Belfast's recycling drive

Belfast City Council has specified Sulo's container identification and weighing system as a key component in a far-reaching new initiative to promote paper recycling.

Belfast is the first major city in the UK to adopt weighing and ID for domestic recycling.

Sulo has supplied the council with 140-litre wheeled waste containers to be used exclusively for recyclable paper. All the bins have been equipped with rugged microprocessor tags which carry unique electronic codes identifying the individual household and the collection round.

The comb-lift device on the refuse collection vehicle is fitted with an antenna which reads the chips, together with an automatic digital "catch weigher" to weigh the bins as they are being lifted and then lowered - a process called dynamic weighing because it does not interrupt the lifting operation. The container identification number and calculated weight of its contents are automatically fed into a data card (RAM card) in the truck cab where they are stored together with the date and time of the emptying. At the end of each round the RAM card is removed and the data downloaded into a PC and then networked to several other computers, including the council's mainframe at City Hall. This gives the council a highly detailed record of the amounts of recyclable paper being collected from every single household participating in the scheme.

With Sulo's system the council can now - at the click of a mouse - assess the effectiveness of the paper recycling initiative and identify how each household is responding to it. This wealth of information enables the council immediately to spot households, or specific areas, where the recycling is particularly low, and helps to focus its educational activities with minute accuracy.

The Sulo system has been enhanced to include a keypad, installed adjacent to the vehicle comb lift, with specially designed icons to indicate possible faults on the bins, such as broken lids or damaged wheels. As the bin is brought to the vehicle for emptying the operator simply presses the appropriate icon and the details of the fault is logged into the on-board RAM card, for subsequent downloading. So the council can now keep a highly accurate, real-time, trace of the state of each and every bin in the system.

The multi-media educational and promotional campaign to support Belfast's recycling drive is being hailed as one of the most extensive and creative ever launched in the UK, and probably Europe. The campaign, featuring "Phillipa Binn", a cartoon character wheeled bin comprises extensive explanatory literature, telephone helplines, a programme of short presentations to individual households, and - believed to be unique - a number of interactive touch-screen maps located around the city enabling residents to ascertain when they will receive their new paper recycling bins.

"It is essential that we can track the progress and effectiveness of the initial phase of the recycling initiative," explains Belfast Council's Martin Doherty. "Knowing how much paper is being recycled - and to what extent each individual household, in each area of the city, is participating - is vital for developing future recycling strategies.

"The Sulo weigh and ID system provides exactly the sort of information we need. It also has the major benefit of being thoroughly tried and tested in applications throughout mainland Europe: it's accurate, extremely rugged, and user friendly." The Sulo equipment is being fitted to Seddon Atkinson Euromover chassis with Faun compactor bodies and Terberg comblifts. The vehicles are supplied to the Council by Cahill Motor Engineering, based in Newtownabbey.

The first phase of the new recycling initiative, involving around 18,000 households, got under way in June. Belfast Council's target is to extend the scheme to include more than 65,000 households within the next two years, and to expand its Sulo-equipped fleet to four vehicles.

"The council currently pays around £40 per tonne for waste consigned to landfill - and this is set to increase dramatically in the future," says Martin Doherty. "But we can receive about £28 for every tonne of paper we recycle - and paper represents between 10 and 11 % of all household refuse.

"The success of the recycling scheme makes just as much sense commercially as it does ecologically, and we're now aiming at 25% recycling ratio. The Sulo equipment will play an important role in keeping us on course to meet these targets."


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