User perspectives on waste and water
Posted by on August 29 2014 12:23:25

How are waste and water handled in the City of Turin today? What are the key challenges and how do you envision the future? Knowledge of existing city structures, services and challenges is crucial when developing sustainable Smart City solutions. Drawing on both existing knowledge from other projects and new insights, partners have gained a strong sense of the Turin context and challenges when it comes to handling waste and water.


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During the first year of the project, ALMANAC has held several meetings with the Municipality of Turin, the Azienda Multiservizi Igiene Ambientale Torino (AMIAT) which is the company responsible for collecting waste in Turin, and the water utility Società Metropolitana Acque Torino (SMAT). Meetings have been combined with field visits to plants and treatment facilities to experience some of the processes first hand.

For waste management, the general picture from these meetings was that the challenges lie in optimising the collection of waste and achieving a better recycling percentage. In the water domain, the quest is to make water management more efficient, implementing real-time monitoring technologies which can be used for detecting problem areas in the infrastructure, forecasting consumption or for reading meters automatically.

Feeling of ownership = better recycling

A comparison between the three different ways of collecting waste in Turin shows that waste collected from waste bins located on ones property and thus in close proximity offers the best recycling quality compared to waste from underground containers or bins at the street corner.

- Part of the explanation is that citizens feel a higher degree of ownership when the bin is associated with their name and property and they therefore pay more attention to the way they sort their waste. Moreover, they get fined if they do not meet the requirements to sort their waste in the prescribed manner, says anthropologist Mia Kruse Rasmussen from the Alexandra Institute.

This door-to-door system, however, is only used by around half of the population of Turin mainly due to practical problems. Some areas are difficult to reach; others consist of large apartment buildings which lack space for bins. To solve these issues, Turin is experimenting with underground containers that have a large storage capacity. 

- Even though they do not offer as good quality of waste as the door-to-door system with only 32-33% being recycled, the containers seem to have a positive effect, generating a higher quality of waste and a higher degree of ownership than the regular street bins, Mia Kruse Rasmussen says.

The poorest quality of waste comes from the street collection system, ‘stradale’, which are regular waste bins located at the side of the streets. Most of the waste collected from these bins cannot be recycled and therefore ends up as unsorted waste at the incineration plant or landfill.

The challenge is to find ways to somehow increase the percentage of recycled waste.

- There is a desire to reduce the cost of final treatment at landfills, incinerators and recycling plants. Turin, as well as other cities, has an interest in developing solutions that can help increase the percentage of recycable waste by creating awareness and trying to affect people’s behaviour, Mia Kruse Rasmussen says.

Optimising the waste collection and creating awareness

Another issue concerns the actual collection of waste. Cars parked in front of the waste receptacle make it difficult for the waste lorry to get close enough to the bin, and as a result the bin has to be left for the next shift. This type of double collection means additional time and cost, and there is also a risk that it will lead to overfilled bins.

- Solutions should aim at optimising the collection to save time and money, giving information and feedback to the citizens that will potentially enable them to make more sustainable decisions and also allow the citizens to provide feedback to the municipality or AMIAT in relation to different waste issues, Mia Kruse Rasmussen says.

Automated meter reading and fast leakage detection

Achieving a sustainable management of the water supply in and around urban areas is a key issue all over Europe. In Turin it is the Associazione d'Ambito Torinese authorities who organise and control the water service which includes everything from collection, transportation and distribution of water for domestic  use to sewage and waste water treatment. The actual services are carried out by the utility SMAT.

A number one priority is automated meter reading: Today, meters are placed at building level and are read by employees periodically. With 360,000 buildings and 2 Euros per manual reading 2-4 times a year, the cost and potential savings are considerable if substituted by automated meter readings.  In ALMANAC, a capillary network infrastructure will be developed to enable automatic collection of data from smart meters via a gateway to the ALMANAC platform.

Another point of interest is in developing and deploying pervasive technologies to detect water leakages faster; In Turin there is a 24% loss of water on average. By deploying sensors, the network can be monitored and water leaks can be identified based on real-time data.