Student project aims to reduce CO2 emissions in Saint John waste collection

·3 min read
Bach Nguyen at his high school graduation wearing the silver medal he won at the 2022 Canada-Wide Science Fair. Nguyen's high school research project focused on minimizing fuel consumption for one Saint John garbage route, which he said would reduce about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 a year.   (Submitted by Bach Nguyen  - image credit)
Bach Nguyen at his high school graduation wearing the silver medal he won at the 2022 Canada-Wide Science Fair. Nguyen's high school research project focused on minimizing fuel consumption for one Saint John garbage route, which he said would reduce about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 a year. (Submitted by Bach Nguyen - image credit)
Submitted by Bach Nguyen
Submitted by Bach Nguyen

A high school science fair project could soon mean more fuel efficient garbage collection routes in Saint John.

Bach Nguyen, who graduated from St. Malachy's Memorial High School earlier this year, completed a school project examining the city's garbage collection routes and how they could be changed to reduce carbon emissions.

"My project was working on a vehicle routing model, which was a computer model that tries to solve the optimal route for a set of vehicles to travel through all of the customers they needed to collect garbage from, and then return to the landfill to dump the garbage," he said.

Nguyen's research focused on minimizing fuel consumption for one route, which he said would reduce about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 a year. When applied to all 34 routes in the city, he said reductions could sit around 50 tonnes.

Submitted by Bach Nguyen
Submitted by Bach Nguyen

Nguyen was awarded a silver medal at the Canada-Wide Science Fair this past May. It's the country's largest annual youth science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) event. Nguyen also won two other awards in energy-related categories.

He said his model considers the various elevation changes of Saint John.

"I produced this elevated vehicle routing model which also accounts for elevation differences between each of the customers and tries to minimize it," he said. "Even though it's a longer distance, it does have a significant amount of fuel consumption reduction."

The project took about seven months to complete, according to Nguyen.

He said he was drawn to the topic because it's in line with his passion for computer science and improving his community.

City of Saint John
City of Saint John

"I do feel like this is such a fortunate opportunity that I have to expand my knowledge on computer science, as well as actually making some beneficial changes for the city and for the economy and for the overall literature of vehicle routing," he said.

Nguyen has approached the City of Saint John about his findings.

Tim O'Reilly, director of public works for Saint John, said Nguyen's project complements the city's new garbage collection system that's set to begin in October.

"As part of our Waste Wise Program, our goal overall is to be more environmentally friendly as well as provide cost savings to our taxpayers," he said. "This wonderful report from [Nguyen] contributes to these goals."

O'Reilly said public works currently serves about 22,000 civic addresses and has 10 vehicles in its fleet. The trucks can be used to collect garbage, recycling and compost.

Graham Thompson
Graham Thompson

According to O'Reilly, the city will be looking into implementing Nguyen's recommendations once the new collection system is underway.

"We're very lucky in Saint John to have wonderful youth and people of all ages that are really interested in making Saint John and the world a better place," he said. "We're very proud of the work that he did."

O'Reilly said the route Nguyen analyzed will be changing slightly under the new system.

As for Nguyen, he has begun studying for a double degree in computer science and business administration at the University of Waterloo. Following his undergraduate degree, he said he would like to return to New Brunswick.