Technological advancements have become a part of everyday life over the last several decades, fundamentally changing the way we do everyday tasks. Everything from buying everyday items like groceries and movie tickets to filing taxes and starting a business has become inundated with technology, simplifying and optimizing process that used to occupy a significant amount of time and energy. While these advancements have generally been welcomed, some express concern that tech is slowly snuffing out jobs and even whole industries. Today we are going to look at a few of the recent technological developments in waste collection and analyze how they will affect the industry as a whole.

Electric Garbage Trucks

Tesla Motors, today’s gold standard in automobile innovation, are applying their technology to try and make garbage trucks quieter and more efficient. They are currently developing an electric drivetrain that can be installed in most large-scale collection trucks in operation, replacing the loud, cumbersome diesel engines and transmissions. The electric engines are powered by battery packs, and also help re-charge the batteries when the driver breaks. Should batteries run low, an on-board turbine (running on either diesel or biofuel) kicks in to give the batteries a boost.

Tesla claims that because combustion engines are least efficient on vehicles making frequent stops, the electric drive-train will make a significant impact on the environment and costs. They believe that the engines could reduce fuel consumption by 67%, emissions by 63%, and vehicle maintenance costs by as much as $25,000 annually.

“Smart” Garbage Cans

Compology, a San Francisco-based startup, has created a sensor that can be attached to the inside of any trash or recycling receptacle. By being able to detect and send alerts when the trash is ready to be collected, the developers feel that collection companies can use the data to utilize more effective collection times and routes. The data can be stored and tracked in a native OS for further analysis as well.

One of the bigger selling points for the program is that it is entirely cloud-based, meaning companies will not have to install or hast any software. That means the dashboard can be accessed through any Internet-connected device. Based on their calculations, better-planned routes will cut costs up to 40 percent.

Trash Collecting… Robots?

Easily the most “out there” idea we cam across, the Volvo corporation announced a partnership with several companies and universities in both the US and Sweden to collaborate a project called Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling, or ROAR. The project aims to create robots to assist in the heavy lifting aspects of garbage collecting (i.e., picking up and emptying the cans).

While the goal is to have the robots operate as autonomously as possible, Volvo will be developing a control panel for the driver to supervise the performance of each robot. Along with preventing workplace injuries among collectors, the robots will also help make the process quitter as well.

With all of these interesting developments in waste collecting technology, one must wonder how this will affect the status quo. Both the electric motor and the garbage can sensors seem to have good upside, given that they would not require the complete replacement of the equipment in use today. Another upside is that it does not eliminate a human step in the process, like Volvo’s robot. Its hard to tell now, but garbage collectors could see this a step towards the elimination of their jobs. Of course this depends on the performance of the robots in the field, but the implications merit paying close attention to further developments.