Analytics help San Francisco improve waste management

IBM business intelligence software is helping waste management company Recology make decisions to improve the efficiency of collection and processing efforts.

Recology, the waste management company helping San Francisco move toward its goal of achieving waste to landfill by 2020, is using IBM analytics technology to help make decisions about collection and drop-off logistics.

The technology helps the city examine the types of items that need to be collected and where they are located across the city, which helps better coordinate pickup. That has helped Recology tailor its recycling program individually across different neighborhoods. In fact, the companies has 20 different programs across San Francisco. There isn't an extra cost for being that efficient: the average San Francisco residential customer pays equal to or less than the fee typically charged in other cities, according to Recology.

The IBM technology behind Recology's planning efforts have helped San Francisco residents reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfill by 49.7 percent over the past decade. Last year, about 367,300 tons went to landfill.

Where is that stuff going instead?

One example is the Curbside Compost Collection Program, which has processed approximately 1.1 million tons of food and plants that would otherwise have gone to landfill. Those materials are being sent to local farms and vineyards for agricultural uses.

"San Francisco continues to make progress toward our Zero Waste goal, and we have achieved the highest diversion rate of any major city in the country," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, in a statement. "Our success stems from a strong partnership with our diverse communities and our commitment to making recycling easy and convenient for everyone. I thank IBM for providing innovative solutions that have contributed to making San Francisco the greenest city in North America."

In the past decade, aside from the composting statistic already mentioned, San Francisco has recycled 1.2 million tons of paper, 174,000 tons of glass, and 135,000 tons of metal.

Recology runs waste management programs that touch 700,000 residential customers in 50 cities. In San Francisco, it handles approximately 3,000 tons of materials every day with a fleet of 1,400 vehicles.

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