Get Smart About Waste

Waste collection can be a time-consuming process, made more challenging by unpredictable traffic patterns. That's why the city of Pittsburgh recently expanded its use of "smart" trash cans, deploying more than 1,200 around the city. The cans feature wireless sensors that can monitor fill level, weight, location and more, helping to maximize efficiency, and allowing the city to better deploy its maintenance staff.

Q: What are the benefits of "smart" waste collection?

A: Wireless sensors in these receptacles track how full they are, allowing crews to know exactly when it's time to empty each container, greatly increasing efficiency. In Pittsburgh, for example, on any given day, the system will determine which cans need to be emptied, and will create an optimized route to those containers, reducing CO2 emissions from collection trucks. Based on analysis by Pittsburgh's Department of Innovation and Performance, the Department of Public Works will reduce labor hours spent on emptying garbage cans by at least half, saving millions of dollars. This will cut the number of employees needed to empty receptacles around the city from 25 to nine. The 16 workers who will no longer be needed to collect garbage will be reallocated to other important tasks, including cleanup, pruning trees and other maintenance jobs.

Q: We're interested in reaping the benefits of "smart" waste collection, but we're not sure how to get started. What should we know?

A: Think about starting small with targeted deployments in a specific area. The City of Pittsburgh started out with 95 of the "smart" receptacles in 2015. Then in 2017, when there was a need to replace hundreds of old receptacles around the city, it began expanding the program.

Q: How do the sensors help?

A: Sensors in the receptacles can measure the fill level and weight, and provide data on trash and recycling amounts over time. Containers can easily be checked online, and you can even receive notifications via smartphone or tablet to let you know when a specific level has been reached, or to alert you when there is rummaging or irregular spikes in activity.



Victor Stanley