The City of Phoenix has highly inaccurate data on the composition of its waste stream. Waste stream composition is analyzed by conducting waste audits, which systematically pick through samples of trash to get an estimate of the composition of an area’s waste. However, Phoenix’s current waste audit system is expensive, costing around $300,000 per audit report, inconsistent, as they only conduct waste audits once every three years, and inaccurate as many waste audit reports never exceed more than 40% accuracy. It is crucial to fix this issue as many aspects of Phoenix’s sustainability depends on it, such as eco-friendly companies that need accurate data (reusable palm leaf biofuel was a real example that failed because the data was too inaccurate), and correctly knowing which geographical areas have poor recycling habits (based on the area’s waste audit data) so that those areas can be targeted for improved recycling efforts.
Partnering with Circonomy Solutions, the Waste Audit Team seeks to utilize modern artificial intelligence technologies and automated machinery to improve the waste audit process. Current waste audits are performed manually by a crew of 10-20 people. Our proposed design will cut the crew size down to 4, reducing labor costs, while also replacing the slow manual labor process with more efficient and accurate automated labor. Our design will also be mobile, fitting in the trailer of a semi-truck, so that the costs associated with moving tons of waste can be reduced since the waste audit can just go to the customers instead. Current manual waste audits are also time consuming, taking 8-10 hours to complete. Our automated waste audit system is much more efficient, seeking to cut that time in half. Due to the lowered cost, increased efficiency, and higher accuracy, waste audits can also be performed more frequently with our proposed design, going from once every three years to once a month ideally, and thus providing much more accurate waste stream data.
So far, the Waste Audit Team has successfully created a 2D design schematic with the community partner’s approval, and 3D modeled several components of the design using SOLIDWORKS. We look to have our design and 3D models complete by the end of the semester so that prototyping can begin.