Smart Garbage Containers: Saving Money While Protecting The Environment

Cities around the world are taking advantage of new technology in the field of public and private garbage collection. "Smart" garbage containers are equipped with sensors that can determine if the containers are full. These sensors use sonar to ascertain the amount of space left in a public garbage or recycling container:

The Benefits of Smart Garbage Containers

When a container is full, these containers relay this information in several ways, including:

  • A light on the top of the container will come on to indicate that it is full.
  • Information will be sent over the Internet in areas of broadband saturation 
  • Data will be relayed by Bluetooth to sanitation workers as they travel through the area

This saves money by allowing sanitation workers to empty only public garbage and recycling containers that are full. Instead of following established garbage collection routes, they can go only where needed. Since garbage and recycling collection are a large part of a city's public works budget, the savings can be substantial. 

Benefits to the environment include decreasing the use of fossil fuels by shortening the routes used by garbage collection trucks. Recycling activity is enhanced by full recycling containers being emptied more quickly. A full recycling container next to a partially full garbage container often means that recyclables will be tossed into the available space.

Controlling Rat and Pest Population

An additional benefit of smart garbage containers in large cities is that they can help to control rat populations. Many inner city locations are plagued with this problem, which is greatly exacerbated by illegal dumping of garbage. When garbage containers are full, residents of low income areas that are densely populated have no other place to throw their garbage but outside full containers or in back alleys. If sensors can immediately determine that garbage containers are full in problem areas, then they can be given top priority for attention from sanitation workers.

Smart garbage containers are also being used on garbage containers at private residences. Homes that rely on private contractors for garbage removal traditionally paid a flat fee for the service. Smart garbage containers that can determine the weight of the garbage in a container enable private contractors to charge customers by weight. Customers that produce more garbage use more of a contractor's services, so they must pay more for the service.

This serves a dual purpose. When private homes pay according to the amount of garbage that they produce, they will put much more effort into recycling. Pilot programs are being tried in cities that offer free public garbage collection from private homes. Residents are given smart garbage containers without cost. It is possible that this will lead to fees for garbage collection in cash strapped cities. However, if this occurs, and city residents must pay according to garbage produced, recycling will enjoy a much higher rate of participation.