Addressing Enviornmental Threats — Rubicon Smart Cities Using AWS

Climate Next is a four-part documentary series focused on Amazon Web Services (AWS) partners using AWS cloud technology to drive innovation and enable their sustainability efforts. The episode featuring Rubicon explores the company’s partnership with the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in which it has helped the city improve the performance of its waste, recycling, and sustainability operations. 

Santa Fe leverages RUBICONSmartCity, a proprietary, cloud-based technology suite that helps city governments run more efficient, effective, and sustainable operations. In turn, Rubicon uses AWS cloud services including Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon RDS for SQL Server, and Amazon S3 to power its smart city solutions which are deployed in waste and recycling trucks, effectively creating an Internet of Things-enabled waste collection fleet.

In interviews with Shirlene Sitton, Environmental Services Division Director for the City of Santa Fe Environmental Services; Conor Riffle, Vice President, Smart Cities at Rubicon; Fred Hannon, Senior Director of Customer Success, Smart Cities at Rubicon; and members of the Santa Fe Municipal Services Department, Climate Next details how cities can reduce waste and build towards a circular economy using technology. 

Waste is a key component of the climate challenge, as solid waste not only takes up space in landfills, potentially contaminating land and water, but it also produces methane, contaminating the air and contributing significantly to overall greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing waste, we reduce carbon in the atmosphere, creating a net positive impact on the environment. 

“Cities are key to helping us to reduce our emissions overall. The way that they are going to do that is by delivering services and delivering the day-to-day infrastructure in the most efficient way possible,” said Riffle.   

RUBICONSmartCity helps municipalities move towards more efficient waste collection, reducing waste, creating a positive environmental impact, and taxpayer savings.    

“What we’re doing now with Santa Fe is working on a fleet optimization, taking into consideration routes, personnel, resources such as their vehicles and taking all of that in some that we can produce a much more efficient operation,” said Fred Hannon. 

The trash truck is one of the few municipal vehicles that drive every street at least once per week. As such, it is uniquely positioned to become a platform for technology beyond its stated purpose of collecting trash. Using sensors, cameras, and a suite of technologies, including AWS, the trash truck can become capable of sensing broken curbs, potholes, overflowing or improperly loaded trash bins, vacant houses, graffiti, and more. The truck then sends that information back to city controllers, giving them much-needed data about the health of cities and precise, location-based details on where and how to address problems. 

The RUBICONSmartCity platform also makes trash trucks more capable and efficient at collecting trash. Using digital routing and reporting, drivers can use any smartphone to receive directions and report issues with their routes, reducing downtime and callbacks and saving municipalities money. 

“Waste can often be one of the top five costs a municipality faces, and waste collection is the most expensive part. So many cities are looking for ways they can pick up the trash as efficiently as possible and use that savings to focus on recycling and recycling education,” said Riffle.  

Recycling is key to moving away from the landfill model at scale and towards a circular economy and zero waste. 

“People talk about the term circular economy,” said Sitton. “You manufacture something, you use the product, you can recycle it or compost it, and whatever’s left becomes the raw material for the next product. That’s the kind of system we’re going to need to get to zero waste.” 

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