Auckland’s garbage collection trial a success, but tech won’t be rolled out

A new rubbish collection method tested in Auckland has been a resounding success, but there are no plans to roll it out across the region.

Auckland Council is reviewing the way it runs its waste collection services following a proposal to switch the whole region to a tariff-funded model.

A tariff-funded model would do away with the pay as you throw (PAYT) bin tag system used by residents of Papakura, West Auckland and the North Coast, who buy the tags to attach to their bin on collection day garbage.

In 2021, waste collection by rapid frequency identification (RFID) was tested on the North Shore.

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RFID is a wireless data transfer method.

Auckland City Council had planned to roll out the bin tag scheme across the region, but now feels the cost of bin tags would need to be much higher to incentivize people to reduce littering.

Auckland Council/Supplied

Auckland City Council had planned to roll out the bin tag scheme across the region, but now feels the cost of bin tags would need to be much higher to incentivize people to reduce littering.

When a bin equipped with an RFID chip is emptied, the payment is taken from the resident’s account linked to his debit card.

The technology eliminates the need for residents to buy bin tags, which Auckland Council’s post-trial report said were constantly stolen, meaning collection had to be postponed at the council’s expense.

He also provided Auckland Council with more information about trial participants’ waste habits.

Eliminating single-use bin labels would also be a win for the environment, according to the post-trial report.

SIMON SMITH/STUFF

Eliminating single-use bin labels would also be a win for the environment, according to the post-trial report.

“Linking the RFID to the specific address and size of the bin has provided staff with valuable information about how often residents in each neighborhood take out their trash and how often each size of trash is taken out.

The trial took place between May and July 2021, involving 498 households from Albany, Beach Haven, Browns Bay, Murrays Bay, Northcross, Torbay and Totara Vale.

One of the council’s rubbish collection contractors already operates a PAYT service with an IT platform for its customers to manage their collection. An Auckland Council-branded version was therefore developed for the trial.

RFID chips on bins would provide data to Auckland Council on residents' waste habits.  (File photo)

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

RFID chips on bins would provide data to Auckland Council on residents’ waste habits. (File photo)

The cost of each RFID collection was slightly lower than the cost of bin tags, depending on the size of the bin – $2.70 for 80 litres, $3.95 for 120-140L and $5.70 for 240L.

Despite some confusion about the enrollment process, the microchip, and the initial payment process, participant feedback on the trial was “overwhelmingly positive,” according to the post-trial report.

“Overall, the trial was successful in providing convenient and reliable service that…based on survey responses, achieved very high customer satisfaction ratings.”

Of the 191 residents who responded to a trial survey, 92% wanted the service to continue.

Totara Vale resident Shannon Mills said Thing the service has made garbage collection “a total ease”.

“It was easy, you could take out the trash and forget about it,” she said, adding that she hadn’t failed to rush out to buy a trash tag at the last minute.

“It was easy. I loved it, I really enjoyed it. It’s a shame they didn’t continue.”

Despite the trial’s success, RFID technology won’t be rolled out on a large scale anytime soon, as the council is still deciding whether the region should switch entirely to a tariff-funded model or a PAYT model.

“If the region decides to pursue a user-pays model, then the RFID payment method could progress,” an Auckland Council spokesperson added.

Aucklanders were not told about RFID technology when asked when viewing the annual plan which payment model they preferred.

The council spokesman would not speculate when Aucklanders might expect a switch to RFID rubbish collection in the future, due to the pending consultation results.

However, the council is considering using RFID chips on new bins in the future, including for the food waste collection service from 2023, to help locate missing bins, resolve complaints about missed collections and data on waste habits.

Elna M. Lemons