IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

Underground waste: Vacuum System Takes Waste Management to a New Level

A new, smart solution for waste management reduces the need for road transport and minimises other environmental impacts. The solution is stationary pneumatic refuse collection, using a vacuum to transport waste through underground pipes, separating different types of waste into different containers.

A stationary pneumatic refuse collection system means waste doesn’t need to be collected by truck. Instead, it is transported underground by air in pipes and then compacted in sealed containers. Besides minimising the need for road transport, this solution eliminates problems of unpleasant odours, and nobody needs to come into contact with waste bags or containers, unlike with traditional refuse management. Additional benefits of this innovative system include:
• Collection of refuse and recyclables close to the point of origin.
• Automated transport of waste and recyclables underground from deposit point to collection station.
• Minimised manual handling.
• Reduced negative environmental effects, such as energy consumption, gas emissions and littering.
• Reduction of waste volumes by encouraging recycling.

How it works

A stationary pneumatic refuse system transports waste long distances through pipes to a collection station, where the refuse is compacted in sealed containers. To transport the waste, the system uses air generated by fans that create negative pressure in the pipe system. The air enters the pipes at atmospheric pressure, traps the solid waste and conveys it to the collection station.

Separating different types of waste

A stationary pneumatic refuse collection system can handle multiple types of waste concurrently, using one refuse chute for each separate waste stream. Typically, two to four separate waste streams are handled in the same transport pipe network. At the collection station, each waste stream is directed to a designated container. Collecting each waste type separately prevents any risk of mixing waste and recyclables.

Food market success story

One example of the successful use of this kind of vacuum system is Stockholm’s renowned Östermalmshallen food market. The market hall has installed a vacuum waste system that removes the large amounts of waste generated at the market. The waste is thrown into conveniently located disposal inlets and transported through pipes to a refrigerated storage unit in the basement. In storage, the waste turns into a thick sludge and is later emptied by vacuum truck and transported to a biogas plant. This system eliminates all manual handling and turns the waste into an important environmental resource.

For Östermalmshallen, the solution has proven to be both environmentally and financially sustainable. It has also improved working conditions and cleanliness in the market hall. The waste inlets are conveniently integrated into workstations, improving the hygiene of market stall counters and the waste storage room. And since the system is hermetically sealed, the waste does not attract pests or insects, nor release any unpleasant odours.


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