Dallmeier helps Viridor target illegal waste disposal in Somerset
An innovative measure developed by Dallmeier, in cooperation with the Somerset County Council in Great Britain, is meant to put a stop to the illegal disposal of trade waste. To that end, all waste disposal sites operated by the company Viridor Waste Management are equipped with a surveillance system that automatically analyses recorded registration plates. Thereby tradespersons who are illegally dumping their waste at sites reserved for household waste in order to avoid disposal charges can now be identified.
Viridor operates nationwide, offering an extensive range of waste and recycling services. It has 18 civic amenity sites in Somerset, which are operated as part of a contract with the council. All the sites have been successfully covered by CCTV for more than two years, but concern about illegal disposal of trade waste prompted the introduction of automatic number plate recognition (NPR) so that repeat offenders can be identified and stopped. The NPR system is now being rolled out to all 18 sites so that traders cannot evade detection anywhere in the county.
A nationwide problem
Householders are entitled to free disposal of their waste, while traders are obliged by law to pay for the disposal of commercial waste such as that arising from building work. Some companies attempt to avoid payment by pretending that their waste is domestic in origin. In consequence, a substantial amount of trade waste finds its way into household waste disposal sites nationwide. “By going down this technology route, we can try and stop it,” says Viridor Contract Manager Brian Nicholls, who is responsible for public sector projects.
No-one knows what percentage of the waste at council civic amenity sites is being disposed of illegally. However, using the new Dallmeier system, Viridor has already identified some vehicles that are visiting its Somerset sites unusually often – sometimes more than sixty times a month. Of course there are frequent users who do have fully legitimate reasons for stopping by so frequently. “We have some people who call in every week to deliver their bottles,” says Mr Nicholls. “That group of customers usually arrives by car though and not in vans, which is why we can exclude those people from our list of possible suspects."
Councils and ultimately taxpayers have to pay the bill for haulage and landfill charges of the extra materials and there are considerable savings to be made in clamping down. But it is not just a question of economics. “We do not hold a licence for trade waste. It is illegal for us to take it,” points out Mr Nicholls.
An elaborate system
In order to identify suspicious vehicles, Dallmeier has developed an elaborate system. The Dallmeier system photographs all cars and vans entering the civic amenity sites and records their registration numbers. Using a newly developed software application by Dallmeier - the so-called Frequent Tipper Application - it is possible to record the frequency of vehicles entering the disposal site. Since the data are always recorded together with a picture, it is easily possible to determine whether an individual vehicle is a car or a van. Streamlined extraction and analysis of the recorded information from all sites allow for the identification of usage patterns through data collation.
A combination of Dallmeier software and hardware, all supplied by Norbain, provides Viridor and Somerset County Council with both a high quality general CCTV system and the specialist tools for recording and analysing the vehicles. The sites use digital Dallmeier harddisk recorders and DI-Detector NPR units as well as DF3000A-DN and DDF3000AV-DN Cam_inPIX® cameras. Control and management of the CCTV systems is by Dallmeier’s easy-to-use PView and PGuard software, while the NPR uses the Dallmeier DI-CAPE (Central Application for Pattern Evaluation) management software and the new data extraction system.
Building on success
Prior to the introduction of the tailored NPR system, the general CCTV system had already been running successfully for two years. Originally, CCTV technology had primarily been used for health and safety reasons as accidents can happen on the busy sites and in case of an emergency the recordings are useful in reconstructing exactly what happened. Some specific sites also have an insurance requirement for CCTV and alarms.
Mr Nicholls had carried out thorough research before choosing Dallmeier. When the issue of implementing a number plate recognition system for Viridor arose, his previous experiences spoke for Dallmeier. Not only was he impressed by the good business relationship itself but also by the fact that all the development work for the advanced system would be done in-house. Therefore he could rest assured that the final system would fulfil all his requirements.
Dallmeier has worked closely with Mr Nicholls in developing the frequent tipper software application mentioned above. The software is brand new and the requirements were developed from scratch to ensure that it met both the county’s and Viridor’s demands as well as being more generally applicable to other councils and operators. Mr Nicholls has already hosted visits from several other councils and waste management companies that were keen to see the system in operation.
Installation was carried out by Perspective CCTV. The company has also assumed out-of-hours security monitoring which is carried out from its new centre in Essex. Implementation of the networking has also been an important aspect. Keyfort, a company specialising in network technology set up a virtual private network system that provides the real-time data used by Viridor as well as Somerset County Council.
“The system has already proven to be highly user-friendly and it works very well,” says Mr Nicholls. The enormous potential for reducing the amount waste is already becoming clear.
The technology can also spare Viridor’s staff from the dangers of potentially confrontational situations. People who are suspected of dumping trade waste sometimes become hostile, but staff members are now secure in the knowledge that all events are recorded and any incident can be followed up.
Further applications of the CCTV recordings and NPR data have also emerged now that such extensive information is available. One of the management tools in the NPR system is a graph showing the busy periods. Mid-morning might be the busiest time at one site, and the quietest at another. “I will be able to arrange for people to help out at other sites at the busy times once I have sufficient data,” says Mr Nicholls.
Having CCTV provides further managerial benefits too, such as allowing instant confirmation of when skips are ready for emptying. “We can then prioritise trucks to the right sites instead of picking up a skip that is only half full,” he adds.
The costs of the system will be recouped from a combination of gains in several areas, says Mr Nicholls. “The investment pays for itself through the reduction in trade waste, health and safety improvements and rationalisations in the operational business. In all of these areas the use of the CCTV and NPR systems offers significant benefits.”