Tracking waste in the cloud: Aussie startup’s innovative data platform helps organisations reduce their carbon footprint and save on costs
After 20 years in Australia’s waste management industry, Chad Holland had become frustrated with the rudimentary methods that the industry was using to measure and report on waste produced in buildings.
“Companies were generally assuming the weights of the bins they were picking up, and a lot of guesswork comes into that,” he says.
But with organisations increasingly turning their attention to sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints, Holland noticed commercial building owners wanted more accuracy and granularity in their waste reporting data. Then in 2018, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) introduced a new ‘Waste Rating’ methodology for commercial office buildings that included a data quality assessment.
Holland and his business partner, Robert Gurr, identified an opportunity to make waste reporting easier and more transparent for organisations. In late 2020, Bintracker was born from their startup business, Gurru.
Bintracker is a revolutionary software solution that uses scanning technology to track and report on waste streams within buildings. Unique QR codes are placed on bins or bags for cleaners to scan using Bintracker’s mobile app. This identifies and records the waste stream, as well as the source or tenant. Scanned bins and bags are weighed using integrated digital scales before being emptied, and the data is captured and sent to the app in real time. Reports are then created to show a site’s waste and recycling habits by day, source and composition.
“So, if you produced a total of 20 tonnes per month, you can see how much of it was waste, how much of it was organics recycling and how much of it was cardboard recycling – and whether you’re getting the best benefit out of your waste compactor versus your bins,” explains Holland.
Bintracker also offers a Supplier Waste Reporting feature that enables organisations to validate, report on and optimise data from their waste removal service providers in a consistent, comparable format.
“For instance, we’ll have a client that may have 20 office buildings and we’ll have a system installed for those, but then they might also have another 20 shopping centres, which can be a bit problematic – you can’t really put onsite systems there,” says Holland.
“So, we get raw data from their waste suppliers and check that it’s accurate in terms of weights, pricing, everything. We normalise it and put it in the platform for clients to compare. This means they can work out whether they are paying the right price for their waste collection and disposal, which buildings are performing better than others, and what learnings they can apply to other buildings.”
Gurr adds that understanding the accurate weight of each bin empowers customers to negotiate with waste suppliers, while also enabling those with lighter bins to generate savings.
Kicking compliance and sustainability goals
By providing detailed and reliable data on the source, volume and composition of waste, Bintracker helps organisations achieve their compliance goals and simplifies the NABERS waste accreditation process. Holland says it can also support efforts to become more environmentally friendly.
“We’re trying to highlight the composition of what’s driving their waste and recycling right now, and what emissions go along with that, which tenants or sources are the biggest drivers of that versus the smallest, and what these trends look like over time,” he says.
“By tracking this data in detail, right down to the tenant or area of a building, we can then work with building managers to improve behaviours through tenant engagement, which can reduce contamination and improve recycling rates.
“We take a really detailed look at the weight profile of tenant waste generation, as heavy bins and bags tend to indicate a high level of food content. And when you explain how that impacts emissions, and what food organics do in landfill and how bad they are for the environment, that’s quite a compelling story.”
Bintracker delivers monthly building and tenant waste reports to customers via email. In addition, it provides portfolio customers with the waste component of their environmental, social and governance reports.
“We also have a web service interface that integrates Bintracker data with third-party systems such as Envizi to automate and speed up reporting,” says Gurr.
There are currently 70 onsite Bintracker systems installed across Australia, while more than 100 sites are using its Supplier Waste Reporting feature. Customers include commercial real estate giants ISPT, Centuria, Abacus Property Group, CBRE and Jones Lang LaSalle, as well as several shopping centres, schools and universities.
James Pearson, National Sustainability Manager at CBRE, says Bintracker is helping the company better understand its waste output.
“Once you’ve got the data and the insights, you can make implementations that deliver the desired outcome,” he explains. “Combining a deep knowledge of the waste industry with practical technology solutions has become Bintracker’s differentiator.”
ISPT is another customer that has enjoyed significant benefits since deploying Bintracker. In the last 18 months, the commercial real estate company has generated $95,000 in annual ongoing cost savings using the platform. ISPT has also leveraged reporting data for its 206 Bourke Street property in Melbourne to convert 2 tonnes of general waste to organic waste per month.
Holland says cleaning contractors are also using Bintracker, as the market shifts to a preference for cleaning companies that are conscious and active in waste management.
Scaling up in Azure
Holland and Gurr began building Bintracker in early 2019 and were able to stand up the core platform in just one week using Microsoft Azure. Since then, they have leveraged more services within Azure and the broader Microsoft tech suite to improve the platform’s scalability.
“We use Azure App Service, Azure SQL and Azure DevOps to simplify our deployments,” Gurr says. “Leveraging DevOps allows us to continually refine the product and improve the customer experience. For the past two years, we’ve done almost weekly deployments and had very minimal downtime.
“We also leverage some of the low-code offerings like Power BI, Azure Logic Apps and Power Automate to complement our platform. The ability to build custom components where needed, but also leverage those low-code components, really enables us to focus on the best tool for the job from an operational perspective.”
Gurr and his development team at Gurru use Azure Monitor’s Application Insights extension to address performance issues quickly, and Microsoft Defender for Cloud to improve Bintracker’s security posture.
Internally, Gurr and Holland use Microsoft Teams for collaboration, Microsoft Power Apps for managing business processes, and Microsoft SharePoint for managing documents online.
“Microsoft’s a great technology provider to partner with. They’re really supportive of startups and they invest a lot of money and time in really innovating their products,” says Gurr. “Having built our product on the Microsoft tech stack, I’m really confident that our future needs can be met.”
Gurru joined the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub in January 2022 and its co-founders have already enjoyed a number of benefits from the program.
“Obviously, the Azure credits have really helped to reduce our hosting cost as we scale,” Gurr says. “We’ve also leveraged the technical advisory services, which were really great to confirm our architecture and see where we could make improvements on the platform.”
Exploring new horizons
Gurru plans to roll out Bintracker to Singapore in 2023 before expanding to the United States and the United Kingdom. The startup wants to align Bintracker’s international expansion with the launch of new mobile scales that allow waste to be weighed at the point of collection.
“We commenced a pilot of the mobile scales in October 2022 at Canva’s headquarters in Sydney to deliver a really granular piece of data at the point of collection,” says Holland. “We rolled out the new hardware to more pilot sites in December to really prove the business case, and then we’ll most likely go for a full launch in Q1 of 2023.”
Gurr notes that the mobile scales can help organisations save on labour costs for cleaners, as bags can be weighed on the floor rather than having to be taken to the basement and weighed.
“They can really streamline the waste collection process and reduce the time and effort required to manage waste,” he says.
In 2023, Gurr and Holland also plan to explore aligning and interfacing Bintracker with new Microsoft developments like Cloud for Sustainability.