Pittsburgh goes big on smart garbage cans

The Department of Public Works is using data from smart trash cans to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

Waste ManagementInfrastructure
Pittsburgh's smart garbage cans help streamline public works | Smart Cities Dive
Smart Cities
Smart Cities Dive
How a ‘Smart’ Trash Bin Can Transform City Garbage Collection - WSJ
With sensors, cities say they can empty containers before they are full—saving them time and money
  • In June 2019, Pittsburgh deployed over 1000 smart trash cans equipped with sensors to indicate the level of fullness
  • The 2017-2019 budgets earmarked a total of $670,000 for smart can purchases (and upgrades to old cans "smart")
  • Estimated savings of $128,000 per month or $1.54 million annually
  • Efficiency in trash collection reduces emissions and frees up resources for other important public works
Project Summary
The City of Pittsburgh’s Departments of Innovation & Performance and Public Works are using data to drive efficiency and cost savings in waste management.
In June, the city deployed over 1000 smart trash cans equipped with sensors to indicate the level of fullness. This data is being used to map more efficient collection routes and gives valuable insight into waste behavior throughout the city.
The project began in 2016 with a limited number of cans equipped with smart sensors deployed city wide for testing. The findings were significant - with only 13% of the cans reaching 90% capacity within a given day. This means diesel fleets were circling town and clocking valuable labor hours for unnecessary collections at up to 87% of cans!
Conversely, data is now being used to increase pickups in areas more prone to trash accumilation to keep Pittsbugh's streets clean. Trends can monitored to determine if and where cans should be relocated for optimal distribution based off real use data.
The initiative is expected to reduce the resources for trash collection by half - likely more if you consider the above statistics observed since initial rollout. The resources once spent on inefficient trash collection can now be reallocated to other tasks in Public Works, resulting in better service all around for their residents.
The significant reduction in resources and labor hours required for trash collection means fewer waste management vehicles on the road. This supports Pittsburgh’s larger Climate Action Plan to reduce transportation emissions by 50% by 2030.
The 2017-2019 budgets earmarked a total of $670,000 for smart can purchases, including new cans and providing existing cans updated lids with sensors.
If Pittsburgh’s new practice will be collection when the can reaches 90% full, the estimated savings for Pittsburgh are around $128,000 per month or $1.54 million annually. The savings are estimated at roughly $65,000 per month if labor costs are excluded. Still, this is notable, as the cost of the cans themselves is recouped in just over 10 months of operation.

Trash is trending

Other innovative municipalities have been making moves to streamline waste management with better use of data and technology. Montgomery, AL, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC (among others) have been experimenting with “smart” cans, applications, and fleet management software to improve efficiency and slash emissions.
Pittsburgh's story is not unlike these others - It's just one more way people are coming together to leverage new technologies to work smarter and deliver better results to their communities.

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