Embracing digital solutions for plastics circularity in cities

Three Philippine cities showcased how they are utilizing advancement in technologies to address pressing urban issues, particularly circular economy, solid waste management and marine litter reduction.

The cities of Legazpi, Ormoc, and Cagayan de Oro were invited to share real-life application of digital technologies at the 1st Internet of Things (IoT) Conference held on June 26-28, 2023 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City. The event gathered industry experts, thought leaders, and practitioners to share their knowledge and insights on the latest developments in IoT.

The smart solutions developed by the cities – which include plastic hotspots mapping, solid waste collection and diversion tracker, online market to support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and a mobile application to promote waste segregation and recycling, were supported by UN-Habitat’s Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative (HOCCI), funded by the Government of Japan. Cities drew inspiration from learning sessions and a nationwide hackathon organized by HOCCI.

Through the IoT Conference, the cities were able to share how their smart initiatives came to life and their driving forces to embrace digitalization, which other LGUs can replicate and customize.

Legazpi City’s Plastic Hotspots Mapping and Smart Waste Management System

Engr. Neil Dominic Careo of the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources shared Legazpi City’s Plastic Hotspots Mapping of Riverine and Coastal Systems, which applies satellite remote sensing, machine learning and modeling to establish baseline information on sections of the Macabalo River and Albay Gulf – two of Legazpi’s key water bodies – where plastics are present or are accumulating. Legazpi used photogrammetry using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones to obtain orthophotos which were be imported into the GIS software capable of artificial intelligence (AI) detection of subject objects, in this case the floaters or plastics.

Through this technology, the city was able to generate Plastic Deposit Heat Maps.

Plastic Deposit Heat Map generated by plastics hotspotting. Image from Legazpi City OCENR.

Careo also showcased the Smart Waste Management System (SWMS) which aims to optimize the city’s existing collection and transport system by using IoT and GPS tracking system.

The Legazpi SWMS mobile application has the following features: MSW Data Management where waste data can be extracted from the barangay materials recovery facility (MRF),  an MRF Monitoring to ensure that recyclables from barangay MRFs are regularly collected by the city trucks, SOS Button for emergencies, and Real-time staff tracking. Watch the demo below.

These innovative approaches support science-based local planning and policy making, and serve as and evidence-based auditing tool for the waste diversion component of EPR, model that other LGUs can replicate, and basis for further assessments.

Embracing smart technology offers us a path towards a more sustainable and efficient future, where waste is seen as a valuable resource, and our planet is safeguarded for generations to come.

– Engr. Neil Dominic Careo, OCENR, Legazpi

Ormoc City’s MarketEPR and SWTrack

Ingrid Macabare of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office discussed Ormoc’s two smart initiatives that are being developed. The Market EPR is an online marketplace that would enhance the operations of waste collectors and recyclers in widening the reach of our waste recovery. Through the website, actors in the waste diversion value chain will have access to market beyond their traditional linkages. MarketEPR, which will be managed by the City Government, will boost the city’s participation in the system as the platform for robust waste diversion data management that is secure and auditable, with accessibility to more waste collectors as as well obliged enterprises and traders.

Similar to Legazpi, Ormoc is also developing a Solid Waste Tracker which will replace Excel sheet-based dispatch and scheduling. The SWTrack will track human resource and vehicle assets, for real-time monitoring, and monitor waste catered by the sanitary landfill, on a daily basis.  These efforts aim to enhance delivery of solid waste management in the city.

Cagayan de Oro City’s Oro Kalimpyo App

August Paul Bacarrisas from the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office, together with Jason Llanes and  Christian Paul Flores, information technology students from STI College Cagayan de Oro, shared how they are addressing the city’s challenges in waste segregation at source and the absence of having a waste tracking system from source to recovery facilities.

The Oro Kalimpyo App enables seamless collection of solid waste by digitizing the manual tasks of writing the records of recyclable waste collected from households. The mobile app, which is in the Visayan language for better use of Cagay-anons, uses machine learning for an interactive scanner feature that assists users in identifying different types of recyclable materials, including plastic polymers. Data collected through the mobile applications are fed into the web dashboard managed by CLENRO where data can be monitored and reports can be easily generated. The app is being tested in pilot barangays and are expected to roll out in the third quarter of 2023.

Features of the Oro Kalimpyo App. Image from Cagayan de Oro CLENRO.

The involvement of the STI-Cagayan de Oro students in the circular plastics economy of the city is a direct outcome of the Plastic 3Rs Hackathon event organized by HOCCI and Red Wizard Technologies in 2021.

  Watch the HOCCI city presentations at 3-hour mark of the IoT Conference live stream:

Cover photo by Elaine Cedillo/Red Wizard Technologies

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