In a smart city, there are a lot of elements required to keep everything working efficiently. One often overlooked area is waste management. Effective waste management makes sure cities run smoothly. With the average American producing 726 kg of rubbish a year, cities must have a good system that can develop with the growing population.


A way in which waste is managed in a smart city is by using smart bins. Smart bins can be seen in cities including, but not limited to, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Cascais, London, Melbourne, New York, Philadelphia. They are popping up everywhere. Smart bins are fitted with a sensor which offers real-time indication on how full the bin is. They are solar-powered and fitted with Wi-Fi and some even feature a LED add screen. The solar panels harness solar energy and use sensors to continually compact the waste that is deposited, increasing the capacity by up to 700%*. This is great because it maximises the amount of space in the bin so it doesn’t have to be emptied as much. Real-time information is sent from the bin sensor in the bin to something called a micro-controller. The micro-controller then processes the information sent from the bin and turns it into data which is sent by Wi-Fi to the control room. The control room then is able to monitor the data to predict when the bins will be full and arrange for collection


When the bins are full, routes are generated for the process of collecting the waste. The most efficient route for the waste collection truck is generated by looking at which bins need emptying and which is the best route is to take to get to each one – this is called route optimisation. The smart bins enabled Cascais in Portugal to cut the number of waste collection trucks by 20%, according to Deloitte. The route optimisation is more efficient since only the full bins are visited so this cuts unnecessary driving hours and the number of trucks needed. Due to the waste collection trucks driving around a whole lot less since they won’t be making unneeded trips to empty bins, this massively reduces the C02 emissions and the pollution involved as well as saving on fuel costs.


By using the smart bins, congestion is also reduced as opposed to the more traditional waste collection system. Traditional waste collection trucks make a stop at each bin in their route, with the truck stopping in the road for the bin men to hop out, empty the bin and then repeat the process a few metres up the road – all while causing traffic. As well as not making as many stops, the trucks could also avoid the busier roads while they are on route which will reduce congestion even more. Reduced congestion also means less pollution will be caused.  


Smart bins can also improve the aesthetics of the streets. Harald Naumann says that the smart bins will motivate a greater proportion of residents to recycle, as it will be a pleasant experience. A common problem, particularly in areas with recycling bins is the sight of waste dumped on the street due to the bins being too full to use, for it to then get blown all over the place by the wind. As well as being an eyesore, having rubbish on the streets isn’t hygienic – it smells, and it could attract rodents, and if any smashed glass is around it can be dangerous. If this is a regular occurrence, it can degrade the area and even make it unsafe for the public. Any recyclable goods would also be ruined – think soggy cardboard that has been in the road or broken bottles. As the smart bins would be emptied as they are getting full, this means there would have not been any overflow. The area would be clean and tidy which means that it would be a pleasant place for people to recycle their rubbish, and it would be a lot more appealing place for them to visit rather than the overflowing traditional bins.  


Smart bins are brilliantly effective at making the waste collection a quick and easy job. As well as helping reduce emissions and pollution, they make the streets a cleaner place to be. It is great to see that the smart bins are popping up around smart cities as they are more than capable of catering to the growing population by moving waste onto the next stage of its journey.


*- Source: Bee smart city