Ergonomics and the work process with the wearable RFID technology in PAYT waste collection

In PAYT waste collection, there are two main work processes and these differ depending on the containers used: emptying of bins and tossing of bags. The emptying process is a single pick up:  the waste collector picks up one bin at a time and empties it into the truck hopper. Instead, in tossing the bag, the waste collector picks up from four to five bags at the same time and tosses them into the hopper together.


Emptying the bin and tossing the bag: pros and cons

Both methods have pros and cons. Emptying the bin is an extremely accurate method and is compatible with PAYT waste collection: in this case, the fixed scanner is traditionally positioned on the vehicle at the height of the waste collector’s waist; he moves the bin towards the antenna to read the RFID tag and then empties the content into the hopper. This method ensures that a given tag has been read at a given moment. On the other hand, considering that every bin has a capacity of up to 50 litres, the collector can only lift one up at a time, two at the very most in the first minutes of the shift. It is therefore an extremely accurate method but it is certainly also rather slow.

The advantage of the second method is its speed, since the waste collector can toss the bags into the hopper from a  distance of up to three or four metres. However, the process is not accurate and is fairly incompatible with PAYT waste collection: the fixed antenna, mounted on the truck at the height of the waste collector’s head, points upwards but when the bags are tossed into the hopper it is not able to read all the RFID tags because the trajectory of the bags is parabolic, they spin around and they fly at high speed. Moreover, their path can be blocked by environmental obstacles. All of the above factors prevent accurate reading; indeed, the reader can lose from a minimum of 2-3% up to a maximum of 16% of the data. This lack of accuracy and certainty of the data is not due to any malfunctioning of the antenna but to a flawed work process.

Fixed readers function efficiently if they are mounted on the truck facing the waste collector so that he can move the RFID tag towards the antenna for the reading and then toss the bag in to the hopper. However, in this way, several bags cannot be tossed into the hopper together and one bag has to be tossed at a time; this causes discontent among waste collectors because collecting bags one at a time slows down the work.

The advantages of the ergonomic wearable device

Ergonomics is a multidisciplinary applied science that deals with interactions between man and the environment. According to the definition of the Centro Italiano di Ergonomia of Pisa, at the workplace “it deals with the design of spaces, equipment and production processes depending on the specific capacities of the workers”. The ergonomic approach optimises interaction between people, machines and environment, improving and streamlining the processes.  In this sense, the wearable RFID device for PAYT waste collection speeds up the work process: with a wearable device, the waste collector reads the RFID tag as he gathers the bags – an operation that takes a fraction of a second –, tossing them all together into the hopper. When emptying the bin the wearable device also has an advantage as the waste collector, lifting two bins, can read them both using the device. Handy and light, the wearable readers are compatible with all methods of waste collection and exploit the natural gestures of the waste collector, without impacting the collection times and without requiring changes to the work method, consequently quelling the discontent of the waste collection personnel.

Moreover, both when tossing the bag and emptying the bin, the ergonomic wearable device guarantees 100% accuracy of the data, essential for PAYT waste collection.

Ergonomics, therefore, is the answer to the process problems and workers’ discontent:  

♦ accurately reading the RFID on every bag and then tossing them into the hopper eliminates the probability of error inherent in readings using fixed antenna on the truck;

♦ reading the tag on the bin before emptying it eliminates the possibility of error;

♦ precise reading of the tag takes less than a fraction of a second so waste collectors do not need to change their way of working.

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