Walmart and other retailers have long relied on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to improve product tracking while increasing efficiencies and productivity. Today, companies in the waste management industry are starting to see the benefits of employing the technology too.

In 2009, the Board of Commissioners of Charleston County, S.C., decided it would move from a dual-stream recycling collection system to single-stream. Doing so would require new carts, new collection trucks and would coincide with the $5 million retrofit of its municipal recycling facility (MRF), to accommodate the larger quantity that the county expects to collect through single-stream recycling.

But rather than merely copying other, similar municipalities that have migrated to single stream, Charleston County is using RFID to help it devise a reliable, data-based process for tracking the transition. The county contracted with solid waste management specialist Kessler Consulting to oversee the process.

Kessler brought Sonrai Systems, a technology provider to the waste management and retail industries, into the project, based on the company’s experience and expertise employing RFID in 45 different waste management applications in 18 states.

Along with its move to single-stream recycling, Charleston County decided to switch to automated collection trucks, which would reduce its labor needs and improve collection worker safety.

Kessler and Sonrai devised a pilot program using RFID to track the number of recycling carts placed at the curb for collection within the pilot area. The county would also use the technology to determine the optimal number of houses it should have on each of the new single stream routes in order to maximize efficiencies. (It is generally accepted that automated single-stream collection is much faster than dual stream, allowing each truck to cover a larger area.) This would also determine how many trucks the county needed to purchase.