Health & Wellness Created

#250 Rethinking Waste Management in Baltimore

Baltimore produces over 1.2 million tons of trash each year. Roughly 10,000 tons of this garbage ends up on the City's streets. Unfortunately, one of the main ways that we deal with this problem currently is through criminalization, and residents caught illegally dumping trash can be fined any amount from $50 - $30,000 and even incarcerated. Sources: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/04/25/baltimore-waste-incinerator-garbage https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-illegal-dumping-20190620-story.html

Location

Across Baltimore City

Timeline

Jan 18, 2021

Today

Sep 25, 2019

Created

Why it matters

Garbage mismanagement is a public health issue. Trash-filled streets and alleys and overflowing cans attracts rats and other rodents to neighborhoods, which can exacerbate respiratory problems and pose other health risks to residents. But criminalizing illegal dumping isn't helping matters. And in fact, it is just hurting the residents struggling to deal with waste in their neighborhoods.

What does "good" look like?

We need better data before we can begin to effectively address this problem. A "good" outcome would be that the City has enough information on every aspect of this problem to begin addressing this problem in a data-driven, holistic way.

How could technology solve this?

We could begin tracking waste management by neighborhood, identifying overall recycling rates, recycling contamination rates, illegal dumping rates, etc. and correlating this data with garbage truck routes, mileage logging, proximity to dumps and dumpsters, residents' access to transportation, and other information related to the way that waste services are used and provided. This would allow us to begin getting at the heart of why certain parts of Baltimore tend to have higher rates of illegal dumping than other. For example, if it was discovered that trash collection trucks were unreliable, optimizing their routes might help alleviate waste-related pressure in the area. Or if we found that there were no dumpsters or dumps nearby and a high percentage of residents did not have a way of transporting bulk trash long distances, we might find that scheduling more regular bulk trash pickup days, combined with a marketing campaign to make residents aware of when these pickup days would occur, would help. Sources: https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/blog/post/high-tech-trash-creating-greener-cities-smarter-waste-management