Town Haul Podcast | Episode 13

  • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
  • Guest: Michael Allegretti (Rubicon)
  • Listen Here!

As Rubicon’s Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Michael Allegretti keeps himself busy. When he isn’t developing technology for smart cities or chasing after his two kids, Michael enjoys chatting about conserving the environment, reducing waste, and the perfect slice of pizza. Host Amy Koonin sat down with Michael to discuss all that and more on this week’s episode of the Town Haul.

On Smart Cities:

ALLEGRETTI: “A Smart City is a city that is interconnected, so all the pieces work together. It’s a city that’s not working in silos. It’s efficient. It’s a city that is not just responsive to citizen needs, it’s one that’s proactive.

So, rather than a city that fixes a pothole after a citizen calls in and says they have a pothole, it’s a city that knows there’s a pothole on that street, a city that will get to it in six days and that tells the citizen it’s gonna happen. Proactivity is a key part of what a Smart City is.

It’s also a city that’s cost-effective. So, you know, you could have all the greatest tech in the world as a city, and you could be super proactive. But if it costs you a billion dollars a year to do that, I don’t think that’s smart. You’ve got to be cost-effective, you can’t waste taxpayer dollars. Our mission is to end waste, in all of its forms. Physical waste, of course, but also wasted time, wasted energy, wasted tax money, wasted money in general.”

On using technology to reduce waste:

ALLEGRETTI: We built a product at Rubicon that I’m proud to say hits interconnectedness, proactivity, and cost-efficiency. It’s called RUBICONSmartCity, and we sell it to city governments as well as to private haulers that work on behalf of the city governments. It helps them become more efficient and effective, so it’s all about improving the operations of that fleet. But it’s also about collecting lots of data that helps drive more sustainable decision making.

You can’t get to zero waste if you can’t measure where you are now. The real vision for the product is making a garbage truck a roaming data center. The garbage truck is the only vehicle besides the postal truck that goes up and down every street in every city in the world at least once a week. And, as such, it can look at everything.

You can start to better understand your community conditions in real-time every day, or at least once a week. You can see what neighborhoods are going in the wrong direction, or where you might start to have issues in terms of dangerous community conditions. Vacant homes, graffiti, the increased instances of litter, cars that aren’t moved a lot. Those are signs a neighborhood is changing. The same goes for infrastructure, broken curbs and potholes. There are different things that the garbage truck could be out there looking for.

RUBICONSmartCity can feed that data to the city government to help the city run more efficiently, to gain a better quality of life. The product is about showing that 9 times out of 10, the driver is doing the right thing. It’s about helping to make the driver’s day more equitable and, frankly, better for the driver and for the city and the residents.”

On the positive impact of RUBICONSmartCity:

ALLEGRETTI: The findings are real, and they are big. 355 tons of recyclable material that had been going to landfills before our pilot program is no longer going to landfills. They’re going to recycling centers, and they’re being repurposed or reused. That was an 83 percent change, and that was driven by looking at the data and changing the behaviors of the drivers.

Another big finding was the potential for actual cost savings. So not just changing where the waste goes, but saving the city money. We identified over $700,000 of annual savings through things like route optimization, the balancing of routes, and kind of the reconfiguring the way the trucks go. We’re looking for carbon savings, of course, from better driving and fewer routes and better routing. We’ve already saved the equivalent of 4,500 or 5,000 carbon tons.

As a taxpayer, part of every tax dollar you spend is going to your municipal solid waste collection and your recycling collection. When Rubicon’s technology saves the city money on that operation, that indirectly should be saving you money. Your government should be turning around and either cutting your taxes or applying that money to some other part of your city. In a very real sense, we’re freeing up government resources that can go to other parts of the city to improve your quality of life.”

On the Internet of Things:

ALLEGRETTI: “For me, the Internet of Things is truly about connectivity. It’s about next-generation devices, whether they be stationary ones like Wifi hotspots that sit in various parts of a city, or cameras, or mobile devices, and using them to improve the efficiency of information to cities. In many ways, the Internet of Things is part of the broader Smart Cities movement.”

On Allegretti’s favorite places to vacation:

ALLEGRETTI: “My happy place is in Pennsylvania. My heart is in France.”