The City of San Francisco Sets a New Standard for Sustainability

Guest blogger Andy Monshaw, General Manager, IBM Midmarket Business talks about where landfill diversion and smarter computing meet.

San Francisco, California has a long track record of reducing waste through recycling, composting and other innovative programs.

That’s why independent studies named the city the greenest in North America last year. That’s quite an achievement, but San Franciscoand its resource recovery partner Recology aim to achieve much more zero waste by 2020!

To join in the tweet chat on sustainability on June 1 at 1pm ET, please join at #zerowasteIBM.

Currently, the city’s diversion rate (the amount of waste diverted from landfill disposal) totals 78%.  Improving that statistic will require a deeper level of insight about the city’s waste stream – what’s in it, where it comes from, where it’s going, and perhaps most importantly, how to encourage more people to participate in recycling, composting and other sustainability programs.

With advanced computing techniques, that information from a vast variety of sources can be collected and analyzed more comprehensively than ever before.

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San Francisco, like any urban environment, generates huge amounts of waste and immense amounts of information about it.  IBM’s smarter computing approach to IT is enabling Recology to maximize the effectiveness of recycling programs, matching the most appropriate approaches and services to the right business districts and neighborhoods.

Already, in the past decade or so, these forward looking approaches have contributed to citizens and businesses reducing garbage sent to landfill by nearly half. It’s a remarkable record, and it’s the sort of accomplishment that makes us even more focused on getting to zero waste by 2020.

It will be a step by step process. For example, taking a look at diverse sets of big data to manage the routing and dispatching of trucks that handle 3,000 tons of material every day has already created a more efficient and flexible system. That’s saved time and money by reducing, among other things, wear and tear on vehicles and fuel consumed.

Or, even consider the simple garbage can itself.

When Recology shifted to larger bins in 2001, 1.2 million more tons of paper could eventually be recycled, preserving 20 million trees. Recycling 135,000 more tons of metal saved 19 million gallons of oil. 174,000 tons of recycled glass conserved enough energy to power the city’s cable system for nearly three years.

A little analytical insight can go a long way, And a lot of insight can go all the way to zero.

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