Waste Sampling in the Digital Era - Case of the Czech Republic

Waste management
October 6, 2022
Pearl Harris
Martin Pavlas
The developed digital solution significantly increases the effectiveness of the sampling procedure. Introduces a systematic methodology, contributes to the consistency of results and enables remote supervision and data processing and presentation.  The solution meets the needs of Digital Waste Management 4.0.”  Dr  M. Pavlas – Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic

Global Environmental Threat of Municipal Waste

Dr M. Pavlas

The dumping of municipal waste is a global threat to our environment and all life forms.

Currently, there is a distinct trend of less landfilling, as countries move steadily towards alternative ways of recycling and incineration, where material use is not possible.

Dr Martin Pavlas, Associate Professor at the Institute of Process Engineering in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic, is doing important research as part of an EU project regarding municipal waste sampling.

With the aid of Mergin Maps and QGIS, he is carrying out an extensive municipal waste composition survey in the Czech Republic. Together with Peter Petrik of Lutra Consulting, a unique GIS-based tool was developed for the waste sampling. This includes a prototype mobile application based on Mergin Maps for waste sampling in the field.

Motivation

The sampling project has three main motivations:

1. Citizens are made aware of the contents of their residual solid waste e.g. how much plastic, glass, paper, etc. is discarded – and can be motivated towards recycling.

2. Municipalities are motivated to take part in the survey, in order to improve their waste collection and treatment systems.

3. The Czech Ministry of the Environment will report the average composition obtained by this specific methodology to the EU, so as to prove positive changes in waste management in line with EU future goals.

Bins to be sampled (Photo: M. Pavlas)

Sampling Plan

The plan proposed and already implemented in 10 areas by Dr Pavlas and colleagues comprises an innovative approach to municipal waste sampling, based on QGIS. Its purpose is to detail where, how often and how to sample municipal solid waste. The ultimate EU goal for countries is to materially recover 65 % of waste recycling by 2035, so knowledge of the precise contents of municipal waste is of great importance towards achieving this goal.

Status of Waste Management in Czechia

The present amount of municipal waste generated in the Czech Republic is 536 kg per capita per year. Despite citizens having access to various bins for recycling, more than 50 % remains as mixed waste. Only 40 % is being recovered, which is far below the EU target of 65 %. It is of vital importance to know the composition of mixed waste, in order to meet future goals – and to motivate municipalities and citizens to sort and recycle more household waste.

Assistance by Lutra Consulting
Developed GIS solution (Source: M. Pavlas)

Martin Pavlas says: “Since we are living in the digital era, we decided to develop an automated tool which can assist us with the sampling and sampling documentation. Together with our partner, Lutra Consulting, we developed a GIS solution which has two parts.” 

1. A desktop GIS solution is based on QGIS and the custom plugin with automated tools for sampling planning.

2. Mergin Maps is used to capture field data, and is available for iOS and Android, both online and offline. It assists workers in the field to access sampling points by means of maps and to navigate to the next sampling point.

What was important for us, is that it is able to work offline” says Martin Pavlas

Random Sampling

Supported by the Czech Ministry of the Environment, a new strategy was developed for the analyses, according to EU standard EN14899: “Characterisation of waste – Sampling of waste materials – Framework for the preparation and application of a sampling plan.”

The new methodology comprises samples being taken directly from containers, so stratified random sampling is done.

From 10 clusters of municipalities, one representative municipality was selected from each cluster where the analyses were conducted. Three teams were situated in Prague, Brno and Jihlava – one in each city – from where they went out to the various selected sites. 

Practical Utilisation of Mergin Maps 

From 1000s of bins, the number is reduced to only 10s, which are randomly selected for sampling. Samples are taken, documented and transported to the site where characterisation takes place.

Specific functions were developed for this project by Lutra Consulting, which were integrated into QGIS as a plugin. Thereafter, specific projects were prepared for the mobile application.

QGIS project (Source: M. Pavlas)

In the verification phase, the field workers use Mergin Maps  to check each bin – first to navigate to the bin, then to record basic information about the bin – volume, colour, type of waste and contents. They also note the GPS coordinates and date and time. The user-friendly reporting of this information is facilitated by the mobile app.  The data are synchronised back to QGIS, checked and further processed. Documentation and protocols are automatically generated in QGIS.

Mergin Maps input interface

Characterisation of Waste

Specific samples are then characterised by hand and divided into about 30 fractions. Academic staff and students of the Brno University of Technology assist in the characterisation, as do some locals in the respective sites.

People sorting the waste (Photo: Jiří Gregor)

Benefits of Mergin Maps

Dr Pavlas appreciates the fact that Lutra Consulting was able to develop a unique innovative solution for this purpose, which he and his colleagues are now able to use without any problems, despite at first, as Mechanical Engineers, having had little or no experience of the technology! He also selected this QGIS-based solution as the most cost-effective in the long term, as this project is dependent on an EU grant. 

Martin Pavlas concludes: “Knowledge of waste composition is important for collection systems’ enhancement.”  He appreciates this unique GIS-based tool developed in association with Lutra Consulting and mentions: “Such a tool can also be very helpful for sampling other types of waste and materials.” 

Mergin Maps is proud to be part of the solution to municipal waste as a threat to our environment.

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