It’s in the can. Cincinnati and Grand Rapids debut new strategy for optimizing waste management.


Americans generated 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2010, some 54 percent of which was disposed of in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In the past 20 years, more than half of the nation’s landfills have closed, increasing the urgency to find a sustainable waste management solution.


Like many municipalities, the Cities of Cincinnati and Grand Rapids are grappling with waste management challenges that include high ongoing collection requirements and limited disposal options. Could RFID technology help point the way to a cleaner, greener future?

In the City of Grand Rapids, James Hurt, Department of Public Works Director, decided to test the capabilities of RFID technology to gather vital data on waste collection. He had three important aims – to boost citizen recycling, to implement weight-based billing for trash pickup, and to increase the efficiency of field service crews.


The Cities of Cincinnati and Grand Rapids deployed a ruggedized RFID system from Cascade Engineering and SMARTRAC TECHNOLOGY GROUP, comprising:

  • Two-wheeled recycling and trash containers mounted with xtreme tags™, which leverage high performance SMARTRAC ShortDipole™ UHF inlays to transmit collection data for up to 10 years
  • An onboard truck system with RFID readers and antennas from Capturit™ mounted in the hopper, and an industrial PC with an optional screen and GPS and GSM transceiver placed in the cab
  • Back-office software with analysis and reporting capabilities.

The decision to reboot recycling with the help of RFID technology has been a resounding success in these cities. In just two years, the city of Cincinnati has:

  • Increased recycling participation from 40 to 79% among the city’s ’s 90,000 participating resident.
  • Grown recycling volumes by 49 percent to 18,000 tons
  • Reduced waste disposal costs by $930,000, compared to the previous program

In the first phase of the program, the City of Grand Rapids rolled out a voluntary recycling initiative, increasing recycling volumes by 40%. Now the city is implementing RFID technology into its waste collection operations. With new pay-as-you-throw billing, many citizens are saving money on their monthly trash bill. In addition, the city is using GPS and RFID data to plan routes, enabling crews to serve more customers each day by using the most efficient routes, while also saving on fuel costs.

With RFID technology and generous coupon offers, it’s easy to make the sale for recycling, saving the planet one pickup at a time.