RFID-Powered Waste Management System Saves City 1.2 Million

rfid grand rapidsFor decades, the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan has been selling 32-gallon garbage bags at local stores for residents to use for public trash collection. Not only was it labor-intensive to distribute over one million bags a year to stores, the bags themselves were contributing to increased garbage in the city’s incinerators and landfills. In 2010, Grand Rapids decided to transform its waste management system in order to reduce costs and decrease waste.  Over the last few years, the city has been implementing a new, RFID-powered Pay-as-You-Throw (PAYT) garbage cart collection program with incentivized recycling to encourage residents to be green.



Grands Rapids Saves $1.2 Million Annually with RFID-Powered Waste Management System
* RFID enables a 40% increase in routing efficiencies
* 37% increase in recycling participation
* 63% increase in recycling tonnage


How It Works

Instead of garbage bags for trash collection, residents are given reusable garbage and recycling carts equipped with Xtreme RFID’s durable RFID tags which are built to withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions.  Each tag contains a unique ID number which is associated with a customer’s account. Collection trucks contain RFID readers and antennas which register carts and record their weight as the contents are emptied using automatic lift mechanisms, giving the city insight into the volume of trash and recycling for each customer in every neighborhood.


To incentivize recycling, Grand Rapids created a rewards program that gives points to citizens based on the total weight of recycling collected on a neighborhood route.  Individuals earn more points by increasing their recycling and encouraging their neighbors to recycle as well.  Points can be exchanged for free merchandise and discounts at local businesses.


Meanwhile, residents are charged for garbage collection based on their volume of trash. Grand Rapids provides residents with a 32-, 64- or 96-gallon garbage cart for which they are charged $2, $4 or $6 respectively for collection.  While trucks collect garbage weekly, residents are only charged when their cart’s contents are collected. If their cart is only half full or if they are on vacation, residents can opt to not place their cart on the curb for collection, thus saving them money while encouraging reduced waste.



The city is seeing substantial environmental benefits due to a 37% increase in recycling participation and a 63% increase in recycling tonnage.  A 12% reduction in garbage has led to decreased incinerator fees and less waste in the city’s landfill.  RFID also enables a 40% increase in routing efficiencies due to real-time route management.  Finally, the new program has reduced administrative costs from printing and distributing the garbage bags of the prior system. Because of these benefits, Grand Rapids projects annual savings greater than $1.2 million.

This is a guest post from Joey McFarland, Marketing Communications Generalist at Impinj. Impinj is a leading provider of UHF RFID solutions.


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