Defra has awarded up to £500,000 each to consultancy Anthesis and waste analytics company Topolytics to develop a system to tackle domestic waste crime and prevent illegal waste being shipped abroad.
Anthesis says its Vastum system would use QR codes on mobile devices to record the identity of consignments, so that transactions will be “faster and error free”, while Topolytics intends to use data from devices including apps and sensors on waste containers or vehicles.
Defra said illegal waste activity drained the UK economy of around £600m a year, and outdated largely paper-based systems could not prevent this.
An independent review into serious and organised waste crime last year found that a lack of digital record-keeping was exploited by criminals who mislabel waste to avoid landfill tax or export it illegally.
Last week’s Environment Bill includes the introduction of compulsory electronic tracking of waste.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “Both companies put forward impressive proposals to help modernise the waste system and help level the playing field by ensuring all businesses are adopting legitimate waste management practices.”
Simone Aplin, technical director at Anthesis, said it expected Vastum would track waste in close to real time and so more promptly alert regulators to illegal activities.
Government, industry and other stakeholders would have comprehensive data on which to base and monitor policy and make the investment decisions.
Aplin said: “A successful system will significantly reduce the administrative burden for the sector and generate the data needed to tackle waste crime, inform policy and guide vital investment in the circular economy.”
Michael Groves, Topolytics’ founder and chief executive, said his company’s project “further validates our use of machine learning, mapping, sensor systems and cutting-edge software to enable the waste industry to maximise the utility of materials and enable the circular economy”.
Topolytics will work with Ordnance Survey, Google Cloud and software firm SAP to build a working version of a system to track all inert and hazardous waste from households, local authorities, businesses and the construction sector.
It will use sources including invoicing records, weighbridge and bin weighing systems, vehicle telematics, ‘internet of bins’ sensors and smart labelling systems.
Topolytics will use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags incorporating PragmatIC’s technology in its digital waste tracking system.
PragmatIC’s said its ConnectICs were flexible and thinner than a human hair, suitable for embedding into a wide range of substrates to provide data.
Defra’s project is part of the second phase of Defra’s GovTech Catalyst waste tracking competition, which saw an initial five companies from phase one whittled down.