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  • 00:19

    MIKE GROVES: Waste is a massive global and growing problem.Two billion tons of urban waste aregoing to be generated globally, accordingto the World Bank, within the next five years, for example.Topolytics has become a classic tech startup.And what we've done is we've establisheda position in what's known as the smart waste

  • 00:41

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: sector as a leading player from our base here at Edinburgh.[MUSIC PLAYING]I'm originally a geographer, and Ihave worked in environmental management of one formor another in the UK, Southeast Asia,for the last 20 odd years.And I was doing a lot of sustainability reporting

  • 01:04

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: for big companies, and I realizedthere was a big challenge around the data that'sattached to environmental management in companies.And I thought there must be a better way to manage that data.Waste is a very, very difficult thing to measure,because it's physical material thatis dispersed throughout different companies

  • 01:26

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: and different organizations, and then it'sremoved by somebody else, and taken awayfor disposal or recycling.So how you measure that and how you manage that materialbetter, that's really what Topolytics is trying to do.And the way we're doing that is by literally mappingwhat happens to that material.

  • 01:49

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: We're trying to make that material much morevaluable by actually showing what happensto all of that material at the moment.And we're doing that on a global basis.So we are building what I call a metamap of the world's commercial and industrial waste.

  • 02:09

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: So these could be big manufacturers.They have significant waste streams,and that waste is primarily managed by somebody else.So they have a contract with a contractor who removesthat waste from their sites.So what we're saying to them is actuallyit's worth taking a look at that data.Because if you want to unlock the value in that materialyourselves, then you need to understand

  • 02:31

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: what that material is and where that material is currentlygoing so that you can then bring thatback into under your control.[FOLK MUSIC]

  • 02:46

    JAMES MACSWEEN: I'm the managing director of Macsweenof Edinburgh.We are a third generation family business founded in 1953by my grandfather.We are the UK's largest haggis manufacturerwith 47% of the GB share and 33% of the Scottish shareof the haggis market.So we've got a lot of waste and we

  • 03:07

    JAMES MACSWEEN [continued]: use quite a lot of utilities.So we use a lot of gas out just in water.But we also generate a lot of waste, plastic, cardboard,dirty water which is a big deal for a food manufacturingbusiness.What motivated us to use Topolyticswas to be completely transparent about whatwe're doing as a business.We're the prime leaders, so being transparent about what

  • 03:30

    JAMES MACSWEEN [continued]: we're doing is really important to us,and it enables us to record our waste that shows uswhere it's going, how much it's going,and it's also enabled us to record the costs associatedwith that waste, because not everything makes us money.There's a lot waste that we have to pay to get taken away.But once we cash it all up, we're

  • 03:52

    JAMES MACSWEEN [continued]: able to identify that what we're doingdoes enable us to break even from a waste managementperspective.

  • 04:03

    BEN EMSON: My name's Ben Emson.I'm CTF Topolytics, but I used to work at O2and I was involved with their innovation lab.And so we built prototypes of their weband mobile applications.I went on and did becoming a solutions architect.So I have a strong technology background.

  • 04:27

    BEN EMSON [continued]: The data comes from a number of sources,and that ranges from manual entryand moves all the way up to automation.And we get feeds from sensors.We can take that information and feed that into our system.We also have used drones to take aerial photosand display those maps.

  • 04:48

    BEN EMSON [continued]: And also we use Google Maps and satellites as well.And so the source of where it comes from is varied.One of the things that we're trying to dois build a data platform on whichwe can manage and visualize lots of different types of data.So as the data comes from our various sources,

  • 05:12

    BEN EMSON [continued]: we will either have to run some scriptsor manually manipulate it into the right shape.It goes into this pipeline, and then we then graduallyprocess this.And we store all this data in what we call a data lake.We also store the original, raw pieces of data as well.And this allows us to go back into the data

  • 05:34

    BEN EMSON [continued]: and reanalyze it when we have different questionsthat we want to answer.We then have a pipeline of lots of little scriptsand lots of little processes to break this all upand then turn it into something useful.We have a set of generic models that weuse to describe the information that we want,and then we can then processes these.

  • 05:54

    BEN EMSON [continued]: We can do analytics on this data.We can then generate what we call a GeoJSON file, whichis what a lot of these maps and things used to visualize it.

  • 06:06

    MIKE GROVES: If we click on a site,you can then start to see what happens to that siteor what are the main attributes of that site.What is it?What goes on there?There's not too much information.It's just a quick overview.But then if you want to zoom in on the siteand get more granular data, you can thenclick on the site itself and move in

  • 06:26

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: to look at what we call the impacts.And these are the different waste streamsthat are being generated on this site.It could be organic waste, it could be plastic waste,it could be general recyclable waste.Again, it just depends on how that information is currentlybeing gathered.But we've designed Topolytics to actually try and deal

  • 06:46

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: with this variation in all of this type of datathat we're starting to see across many differentcompanies.Part of that initial process of engagement with companiesis to say, OK, well, let's understandwhat happens to this material so we can then create those links.We now know where we then need to interrogatenext to understand where that material is then going.

  • 07:10

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: So that's the view from the waste producer.They're the center of their map.But these guys, they're interested in understandingwhere is that material coming from.We know we're getting material from this site.But actually, that material must be coming from other sitesas well.So you can switch the view, and theybecome the center of their map, but they're

  • 07:30

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: interested in material coming into their site.And that's what we're doing is we'rebuilding these individual maps for individual companiesacross the world and putting all that together.[MUSIC PLAYING]Different companies have different typesof data in different formats and the quality is quite variable.

  • 07:55

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: I Think there is a big challenge therein terms of the interoperability and the waywe can manage all of that data and bring itinto single source of the truth almost.So we don't think that there is a single input that'sgoing to give us an answer as to what happensto all of this material.

  • 08:16

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: So we start with looking at data thatcomes from the companies themselvesthat generate the waste, but then we'relooking at other input.So for example, there is a growing fieldknown as the internet of bins, which is we're using sensors.So it's an IoT approach to monitoring and measuring waste.But that's still very, very early days.

  • 08:37

    MIKE GROVES [continued]: But there are other ways that we think we can look at this data.So we think that it is quite challenging.And that is one of our challengesis how we manage to integrate these different sourcesof data, some of which are very manual, maybe sitting in Excelspreadsheets, for example.

  • 08:58

    BEN EMSON: We have to clean the data.We have to try and make sure that that data isof highest quality is possible.It doesn't matter too much, because we store all that datain this vast data lake.We can reanalyze that data later onand correct for problems that might have occurred in there.But we have validation scripts which we run,

  • 09:19

    BEN EMSON [continued]: and they will do some sanity check.So if you've got ranges of information whichshows as slightly unusual, that will trigger issues for usbefore we even load the data in.We then obviously upload this data,and then we process it and go on from there.

  • 09:43

    JAMES MACSWEEN: We try and segregate our waste sourceso that the person that's generating the wasteneeds to make the informed decision.It's so often it's the other way around,that people just put rubbish in a bag,and then it has to get sorted afterwards.We don't have the infrastructure to segregateour waste that way, so we use colored bags for this.Yellow for plastic, black for dark waste,green for food waste, purple for paper.

  • 10:04

    JAMES MACSWEEN [continued]: There's an imprinted code that people now know.So for the guys that then process it into bales,they just follow the same color convention and it works.Topolytcs enables us to put all our information in one place.Whether it's our inputs or outputs,it's all neatly captured in one place.

  • 10:25

    JAMES MACSWEEN [continued]: In the past, it was in different files and different Excelworkbooks.And it it's made reporting more streamlined,and it's enabled us to produce our annual sustainabilityreports more quickly, and to pull the data out.

  • 10:42

    BEN EMSON: I think Topolytics touchesa lot of new technologies.So we have machine learning to look at finding correlationsbetween information.But also one of the things which isparticularly topical at the moment is the blockchain.We've just done a trial with-- or pilot study

  • 11:03

    BEN EMSON [continued]: with Stirling University where we've been tracking fish waste.One of the problems is this is actually a hazardous materialand needs to be disposed of properly.So we've done a project which tracks the fish wasteright from beginning, writes that informationinto the blockchain, and there are certain triggers all

  • 11:23

    BEN EMSON [continued]: the way through the process--so the bins being taken away, the traveling throughon the lorries, off to the waste management companies,and so on, and then getting processed,and then finally getting destroyed.And that's particularly interestingbecause I can see it being a really useful toolfor governments to just guaranteethat certain waste was disposed of, and by whom,

  • 11:46

    BEN EMSON [continued]: and at what times, and so on.The immutability of the blockchainis perfect for this kind of problem.

  • 11:55

    MIKE GROVES: I think there is increasinglyrisks attached to not understandingwhere all of your own waste material is going.And there's an idea of extended producer responsibility, whereyou have to take more responsibility for whathappens to that material.

  • 12:11

    JAMES MACSWEEN: Working with Topolyticsenables us to consider our footprint on the planet,and it helps us to shape decisions regarding how we actand how we use our resources.We went zero waste in 2014.I'm sure there's at least a couple of handful

  • 12:33

    JAMES MACSWEEN [continued]: of food businesses in Scotland that are zero waste.But for a small business like us, it was quite an achievementback in 2014, something I'm fiercely proud of.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2019

Video Type:In Practice

Methods: Spatial analysis, Data visualization

Keywords: data analysis; data sources: empirical data; data visualisation; environmental management; monitoring; technologies; waste disposal; waste management; zero waste ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Mike Grove, CEO, and Ben Emson, CTO, of Toplytics, a data and analytics business focusing on the movement and fate of industrial and commercial waste, outline the challenges of tracking and monitoring material in the waste stream. James MacSween, Managing Director of MacSween of Edinburgh, explains how Topolytics helped alter their waste production to the extent that they have had zero waste since 2014.

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Spatial Analysis & Data Visualization to Manage Waste: Topolytics

Mike Grove, CEO, and Ben Emson, CTO, of Toplytics, a data and analytics business focusing on the movement and fate of industrial and commercial waste, outline the challenges of tracking and monitoring material in the waste stream. James MacSween, Managing Director of MacSween of Edinburgh, explains how Topolytics helped alter their waste production to the extent that they have had zero waste since 2014.

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