They have sensors to understand when they are full and optimize garbage collection: several cities around the world are experimenting with them, even in Italy.
Some cities, in recent years, have chosen to install “intelligent” rubbish bins, i.e., bins equipped with sensors that monitor the volume of waste and therefore the level of filling. The information is transmitted instantly to the operations center, alerting it when and if it is time to collect the waste. Several analyses, wrote the Wall Street Journal, have shown that emptying the bins before they are full makes collection more efficient and less dispersive and in Italy with smart bins are also doing experiments in Milan.
Manuel Maestrini, founder and director of NordSense, a Californian company that produces smart sensors for garbage bins, explained that their technology reduces collection costs and emissions by 50 percent: “It takes about 30 seconds to empty a bin that is not full. If the bin overflows, it takes much longer”. The time and costs also increase when the rubbish is dumped on the floor next to the bin because that bin has not been emptied. The collection vehicles can also plan the route by going directly to the bins that have to be emptied, avoiding unnecessary steps that waste time, resources and traffic. For Maestrini, tackling the problem of insufficient space for waste by adding more bins only increases the problem, with a sort of “chain effect”.
NordSense has provided its technology to the cities of San Francisco (USA), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Netanya (Israel). More than 1,000 smart bins have been installed in San Francisco with an 80 percent reduction in full bins and a 66 percent reduction in specific requirements for street cleaning, NordSense says. The Copenhagen administration – which started testing “smart” bins in 2016 – has, in turn, calculated a 33 percent saving in waste collection costs by intervening on full bins at least 25 percent.
There are several companies that provide the technology of ‘smart’ bins. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania administration made a four-year agreement to have 1,200 “smart” bins with Victor Stanley Inc., based in Maryland. Matthew Jacob, an analyst with the city’s innovation department, said data collected during the trial phase showed that smart bins can help reduce the hours normally spent on waste collection by about 50 percent.
The sensors of the “smart” bins, in addition to checking the amount of waste, allow to monitor if the bin has been spilled, to detect the internal temperature to know if something is burning or to understand if there are movements, such as mice. Some companies are working on sensors that can also detect odors.
Also in Italy, there are cities that are experimenting with this kind of technology, but in a rather reduced form: Florence, Crema, Trieste or Padua. In Milan, Amsa, the A2A Group company that manages the environmental hygiene service throughout the public area, has instead positioned 12,550 “intelligent” baskets, developed with Cefriel-Politecnico di Milano, a subsidiary of the Politecnico specializing in digital innovation projects. The bins are located in the streets and squares of all nine municipalities, excluding green areas, where there are traditional waste bins, but the project is still in the testing phase and the analyses to acquire data are still in progress.
The “intelligent” bins in Milan are equipped with a sensor that constantly performs a complete scan not only on the filling level but also on the frequency and time of use. Through a wireless network, the bin sends information on the status of the containers to the Amsa operations center: completely empty, half-full or two-thirds full or obstructed on the surface. All this information gives the possibility to improve the service, but also to “personalize” it and to understand what specific needs there are in different areas.