Following Rubicon’s successful food waste regulations webinar, last week I spoke about the role of waste management in the sustainable management of our cities at WASTECON 2021, a virtual event hosted by the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA).

The COVID-19 public health crisis is just one of many new disruptions impacting our cities. We know that we can expect more floods, more frequent and intense storms, extreme heat, and future health crises. In spite of these shocks and stresses, the waste and recycling in our cities still needs to be collected. Resiliency needs to be the standard operating procedure: We need to digitize operations, enable remote operations, and maximize efficiency so that solid waste teams can adapt to meet the current needs of their cities and their residents.

We are living in an unprecedented time. Waste and recycling professionals working in cities around the world need to embrace disruption if they wish to come out of COVID-19 stronger and more resilient than how they started.

Here are three key takeaways from my virtual session:

Takeaway #1: Ensure Service Continuity

Ensuring service continuity, every day and in times of crises, is key to keeping communities safe and healthy.

During my session at Virtual WASTECON, I gave the example of how office staff for the Department of Sanitation at the City of Fort Smith, Arkansas pivoted to a work-from-home environment by eliminating the need for paper and migrating the solid waste department onto a fully digital platform. Rubicon’s smart city technology solution, RUBICONSmartCity™, makes it easy to ensure that City residents are serviced and that staff exposure to COVID-19 is minimized. Office staff can easily manage routes from home and deliver exceptional customer service while keeping themselves safe.

I also gave the example of the City of Spokane, Washington. Spokane ensures service continuity for all of its residents by using Rubicon’s smart city technology to save an estimated $25,000 in annual printing costs after Rubicon digitized their routes, and using the technology to document extra set outs, accounting for approximately $2 million in revenue each year.

Takeaway #2: Provide Waste Management 2.0

Waste management 2.0 uncovers cost savings, gathers insights that inform decision making, and leverages existing fleet assets to do more than just collect waste and recycling.

This last point refers to actually being able to do something with all the data that is being collected. Actionable insights are exactly what we gave the City of Montgomery, Alabama. As I discussed in my session, when Montgomery first started using the RUBICONSmartCity technology, city drivers documented over 57,000 issues along their routes, providing a template for how the city could develop a citywide community insights program. The data showed that if the city were to reduce its routes by just five, taxpayer savings could total approximately $375,000 per year.

I also gave the example of urban data collection in the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe utilized Rubicon’s smart city technology to identify and geolocate graffiti hot spots across the City. By applying new technologies to existing assets (including, but not limited to, waste and recycling vehicles), cities can capture community insights with zero driver interaction to improve quality of life for all residents.

Takeaway #3: Champion ESG Principles

Cities can be ready for the next big challenge when they embrace environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles in all that they do.

During my session, I spoke of Rubicon’s core ESG credentials, including driving the circular economy forward, empowering small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and Rubicon’s hauler network, and taking a stand on stakeholder-driven corporate leadership. (To learn more about Rubicon’s relationship to ESG principles, be sure to download our inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report.)

I also spoke about Rubicon’s partnership with the City of San Antonio, Texas to tackle contamination in the recycling stream. The City’s pilot of our contamination detection tool showed how the city could reach its goal of a 60% residential recycling rate by 2025 by employing camera technology instead of expensive, manual audits.

Finally, I spoke of the need to future-proof our communities. Resiliency is the new normal, and resilient cities prioritize livability, sustainability, and equity. Ways in which we can all work to future-proof our communities is to:

  • Source materials and services locally
  • Reduce the distances and complexities of supply chains
  • Invest in robust infrastructure
  • Pilot smart city enhancements

I had a great time speaking at Virtual WASTECON 2021, and I look forward to attending the in-person event again in the not-too-distant future.

To sign up for future events from or attended by Rubicon, and to look back on previous events in which we have been in attendance, take a look at Rubicon’s events page.

Elizabeth Montoya is Chief of Protocol and Investor Relations and a Member of the Board at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.