Nearly a year after China stopped accepting the world's garbage, cities around the globe are wrestling with what to do with all of their waste.
China's new policy, which once accepted 70% of municipal solid waste generated around the world, means that cities like New York, London, and Paris need to find a new way to deal with their dumps. In Toronto, the municipal government is targeting a 70 percent reduction in the amount of recyclables and organics that are going into landfills or waste disposal by 2026.
The goal is made more difficult by one problem that cities have in common -- multi-tenant residences (like apartments, condos, and coops) have a hard time organizing waste for recycling and landfills.
That's why Sidewalk Labs and its portfolio company AMP Robotics are working on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.
"Multi-family buildings are notoriously hard for sorting. Single family has 60 to 70 percent diversion rates," says Emily Kildow, Associate Director of Sustainability at Sidewalk Labs.
Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs would transport the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash will be sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted, and recorded Sidewalk will communicate with residents of the building about how they're doing in their recycling efforts.
Sidewalk says that the tips will be communicated through email, an online portal, and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.
For residents, it's an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can't recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting that the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don't want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they can opt out of the program.
If that hypothesis is correct, it's a technology that could potentially help other cities facing similar predicaments.
Sidewalk is also aware of the privacy concerns that could arise from having the trash monitored by its portfolio company, so in concert with the city, the company created a Responsible Data Use Assessment process and is assuring residents that any data collected will be de-identified and aggregated and only focus on the types of waste that's being thrown out.
"The non-personal, aggregate data about the waste recorded by the materials recovery facility and AMP will be shared with Sidewalk Labs, residents in the buildings, and building owners," the company said. "Once the pilot is complete, Sidewalk Labs will share a report to the public using the same aggregate and non-identifying data."