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A sanitation worker sifts through a dumpster in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A startup called Compology is using high-tech cameras in dumpsters and AI analytics to help companies and cities better manage their waste streams.

Why it matters: Trash — unlike electricity or water — isn't easy for cities to meter, "which contributes to the inefficiency around waste management," says Jason Gates, Compology's CEO.

  • By being able to track exactly how much and what kind of waste is in a dumpster, Compology enables its customer to cut down on unneeded pickups and improve recycling rates.

Background: Gates got his start in the waste business by managing the trash created during major infrastructure construction in New York like the Second Avenue subway line project.

  • He noticed that, on average, dumpsters were only about 50% full when they were collected by sanitation trucks.
  • That's because pickups were done on a schedule — not based on the actual amount of waste in the dumpsters.

What they're saying: "Waste and recycling is the only utility that doesn't have any form of measurement, because everything is based off estimates," says Gates. "Not only does that mean unnecessary vehicle miles emitting carbon, but businesses and taxpayers end up paying for trash service that they don't actually need."

How it works: Compology installs military-grade cameras in large dumpsters that take pictures of the contents roughly five times a day.

  • Those images get sent back to an AI system that uses image recognition to identify how full the dumpster is and what kind of trash is contained inside.
  • Pickup schedules can be more efficiently timed to when the trash really is full, while the AI system "can determine that you're putting Amazon boxes in a landfill garbage container and push out a message to move that cardboard into your recycling container," says Gates.

By the numbers: A sanitation company in California's Alameda County that partnered with Compology was able to reduce waste management costs by 20% and recycling contamination by 80%.

What's next: Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas have launched pilot projects with Compology, and the company is looking to scale its technology down to work with smaller waste customers, including residences.

Go deeper

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

Updated 5 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls in the neighboring Plumas County, per AP.