Collection, segregation, and treatment of waste is a challenge for every city in the world. There are two main challenges that occur here:

1. Tracking city-appointed sanitation workers: The sanitation workers are inconsistent in their job. They even skip collecting waste from some households in the locality. There’s no way for authorities to track their job

2. Garbage segregation: Segregating food waste from other waste is difficult for the City Municipal body

One possible way to solve these challenges is by using QR Codes.

QR Codes are machine-readable codes that are made up of black-and-white squares. Just like barcodes, they can store information and can be scanned using a smartphone. With QR Codes, it is possible to track both waste collection and segregation.

See how city administrations are using QR Codes for other use cases.

1. Tracking waste collection using QR Codes

To do this, State/City Municipal body can assign a QR Code to each household.

This QR Code can be encoded with a unique identifier (serial code) or a unique URL.

city waste management via qr codes: qr code

When scanned, the QR Code will make an entry in an online database. It will include details such as time, date, and household number.

The authorities can then use this data to analyze which households were not covered. This will make the appointed sanitation worker of the area accountable.

Here’s how the process will work:

i. The sanitary worker comes and scans the QR Code, and collects garbage
ii. A host computer receives the information about waste collection
iii. The host computer keeps a record of ‘missed households’

This will ensure that the sanitary workers are consistent and don’t skip collecting waste.

In 2018, Trichy City Corporation, India, gave such QR Code cards to the households. They also received a positive response from the residents.

city waste management via qr codes: trichy

“Previously we were unaware about the arrival time of sanitary workers to pick up waste. After getting QR Codes, they arrive regularly and alert us before scanning the code.”— Muthukumar, A resident, Trichy

2. Waste segregation at source via QR Code-enabled collection centres

The Municipal body of the State/City can arrange ‘Garbage Collection Points’ across the streets. Or they can also make it mandatory to have such points in large apartment buildings.

These garbage collection points should have two doors. The first door will collect food waste and the second one will collect other wastes. And they should also have a QR Code scanner.

They can provide two bags to each household (for food waste and for other wastes). Each of these bags should carry a QR Code that reads food waste and other waste. Here’s how it works:

i. People go to the garbage collection point. They scan the QR Code on garbage bags using QR Code scanner present there
ii. Scanner recognizes the type of waste
iii. It then opens the designated door to collect the waste

This is an efficient way to collect the segregated waste from the source (residents) itself.

In 2017, Shiba street community, Hangzhou (China), came up with a similar system of ‘Intelligent garbage disposal system’.

city waste management via qr codes: china

They installed garbage collection points and residents with most correct disposals earned ‘green points’. They could use these green points to avail discount on various items at the participating supermarkets.

Also see how many NGOs are using QR Codes for various use cases.

In June 2017, some students in Bangalore, India, created the Suchi Mitra App. This app created awareness about waste segregation.

They gave a unique QR Code to 152 properties. These QR Codes helped monitor the houses. The ones who segregated the waste properly, got 5 stars in the app. This also helped raise awareness among residents.

So these QR Code-enabled systems can not only help track waste collection, but also help segregate waste. And this is one of many ways QR Codes are being used towards sustainability. What do you think about using QR Codes in waste management? Share your views in the comments section below.

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