Digitalization sets self-monitoring on the agenda

Published: 17-06-2016

Digitization of waste management eliminate paperwork and strengthens the big picture by means of self-regulation. A positive example is set by large livestock farms in environmental management

Waste management is crucial to environmental management. Medium-sized and large European companies should prepare themselves because new European regulation is being prepared making environmental management statutory for many companies. As one example new legal requirements will apply to large livestock farms. As environmental management is something each company included will be responsible for implementing, self-monitoring therefore is set on the agenda.

Waste management in a sector, where there are longstanding political fights and fixed positions on environmental requirements, may sound conflictual. But it should not be, because there are very clear gains for a company or farm in digitizing. Similar gains can be found in other sectors and industries.

Everyone wins by digitization

"If the possibilities of digitization is utilized in that connection it will be an advantage for all parties, especially the farmers themselves on large livestock farms, to implement an environmental management system in which waste management is a key element. Digitalization has given us the right tools to do it in a way where everybody wins," says environmental planning engineer Peter Nygaard from the consulting engineering company NIRAS.

"Farmers gets a better understanding of their businesses, which helps them to save energy and raw materials, and not the least to save expenses on waste disposal, waste water services and environmental taxes. In addition, farmers often will get fewer time consuming control visits from public authorities," adds Peter Nygaard.

The experiences with digital records and self-monitoring from livestock farms can as one example be transferred to waste treatment plants, where the supervisory authority can make use of the built in opportunity for real-time control. On waste treatment plants it is important to secure that there is no mixing of different types of waste, which will reduce the treatment quality. To achieve that no mixing will take place, the public authorities can build in demands in waste treatment plants’ environmental permits, that the plants implement self-monitoring as an integrated part of the daily routine of sorting incoming waste.

"As seen from the authorities’ point of view digitization ensure that they get real-time data, improve their management of data and get data archived properly – and not least authorities will get alerts in real time," says Peter Nygaard.

Quite similar gains can be achieved in other sectors, e.g. by waste registration and environmental management in recycling centers or in other non-agricultural businesses.

"The key is digitization. You will be able to eliminate the use of paper and pencil and get rid of ring binders, the need for physical archiving and order in the papers," says Peter Nygaard.

Environmental management system ready for use

NIRAS has developed an environmental management system for livestock farmers for the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, which is ready to use and available free of charge on the Agency's website. That is one of several examples of environmental management systems that ensures that a company meets legislations requirements. That concrete system is not digitized but it can easily be. And then instead of paper documents the farmer can use a specially designed app for his smartphone or tablet to collect, report and archive data. The app makes it possible to feed data directly into a standard system.

A digital system like this can easily be customized to companies in many other industries and implemented by them.

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