A World Bank report found that global trash production had reached 3.5m tons per day in 2010, the number was on course to reach 6m tons of trash per day by 2025. The cost of managing waste disposal is also on the way up, the same report forecasting an increase on average of 83% by 2025. Local authorities are beginning to respond by introducing IoT-based systems to improve waste management.
One such example of the new trend is the city of Pittsburgh, which this week announced that it plans to expand its connected trash can program, following a successful pilot. Next year, the city will have 1,281 trash cans fitted with sensors that measure its fill-capacity. The sensors then alert the city when a can is full, so it can be emptied efficiently – saving the Department of Public Works both work-hours and operating costs.
The Department’s director, Mike Gable, said that the program had so far helped the city reduce the time it takes to service litter cans by 30 to 50 percent. The technology will apparently allow 15,000 hours of staff time to be redeployed across different services in Pittsburgh.
In addition to improving the operation of the city’s trash service, the smart trash cans will be able to measure the performance of the cans’ placement. The data from the cans should lead to location optimization, consistent collections and inventory improvements – ensuring that the trash that the citizens generate always has somewhere to go.
The city of Pittsburgh plans on entering a four-year contract with Victor Stanley, for both the hardware and the software to power the smart trash can system. The city will pay $4.90 per month for the sensors, and included in this price is a subscription to a web-based monitoring platform. The total subscription cost of the sensors will be $75,322 annually.
The Pittsburgh trash cans will have a Victor Stanley Relay Sensor fitted, to detect the fill level. The sensor uses a proprietary RF technology and includes a GPS chip, for automatically locating themselves in the web dashboard.
Victor Stanley isn’t alone in this market. Veolia is in the process of developing a smart trash platform with Huawei. This system is likely to use an NB-IoT cellular communication platform, as Huawei is the protocol’s largest driving force. NB-IoT networks are planned for later this year, so we anticipate a significant announcement on this front once networks are in place.
The smart trash cans open up new possibilities for local authorities in terms of waste management. Citizens could be charged by the number of times their trash can is collected, although charging residents by the bin-load would likely be politically unpalatable. However, it would have the effect of gamifying waste disposal, and should encourage citizens to reduce the amount of trash they were throwing away each week – something that would further reduce the city’s waste disposal costs.