Harnessing AI to Enhance Waste Management: A Case Study in Ontario

NNicholas August 14, 2023 11:02 AM

An eastern Ontario township, South Stormont, is piloting an artificial intelligence (AI) project aimed to optimize waste collection efficiency. The local council has teamed up with Saskatoon-based company Amb.AI to generate efficient routes for garbage collection and snow clearing trucks. The initiative could signal a new frontier for AI application in traditional municipal services.

AI adoption in weekly garbage pickup

South Stormont, a rural township in eastern Ontario, is pioneering the use of AI in its waste management system. The township, which provides weekly garbage pickups across some 300 kilometres of roads, aims to limit resources and time wasted on missed pickups. A partnership with Saskatoon-based company Amb.AI is in the works to utilize AI to optimize the route planning for garbage collection trucks.

AI to drive financial and environmental efficiency

The AI initiative is not merely about efficient garbage collection. By optimizing the utilization of different vehicles, it hopes to yield both financial and environmental efficiency gains. With the help of AI, the township staff can more effectively patrol roads, collect garbage and clear snow. The long-term hope is that the initial efforts will be paid back in savings on gas and work hours.

AI's usefulness to cities still uncertain

While South Stormont is enthusiastic about the potential for AI in municipal services, the broad application and usefulness of AI in urban governance remain under-explored. Renée Sieber, a professor at McGill University, points out that AI's utility to cities worldwide remains an 'unknown quantity.' While there are many unique cases, the definitive case that governments should be using AI is yet to be discovered.

Canadian cities and towns are exploring the use of AI, although they tend to be more careful than their American counterparts. Rather than leaping into the 'cowboy mentality,' Canadian municipalities are more likely to seek proven value for taxpayers before investing in advanced technologies. However, cities like Edmonton are ahead of the curve, employing data scientists and applying AI in services ranging from policing to wildlife tracking.

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