Can ‘Smart’ Garbage Cans Help Us Manage Solid Waste?

Overflowing trash cans are an unpleasant sight, that disrupt the beautiful views and harmony of our cityscapes. Overflowing and open trash cans pollute the environment and can be the cause of diseases and infections for the nearby residents, workers, and passersby.

To battle the problem of ineffective municipal solid waste management. Scientists and tech experts have designed an innovative solution that is now transforming the cities of the developed world. Smart garbage cans are already in use in the major cities of the USA like New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

Smart garbage cans that are manufactured by the Massachusetts-based tech company BigBelly have been placed in more than 60,000 locations in 55 different countries around the world. These smart garbage can prototypes have managed to collect 160 million gallons of waste in a span of just 12 months.

What Are Smart Garbage Cans?

Smart garbage cans are an innovative solution to manage solid waste in the world’s biggest and busiest cities. The sensors that have been installed inside these smart garbage cans, monitor the amount of waste that has been disposed of inside these smart trash bins. The data is sent to the municipal waste collection and waste management departments in the city, who can send their sanitation workers for timely waste collection before the smart garbage cans reach their full capacity.

The smart garbage cans manufactured by the Danish company Nordsense, that offers greener and smarter solutions for solid waste collection and management, use laser beam sensors to scan the insides of the bins. A map that is in the form of a 16-point grid and builds a 3-dimensional topology of what is inside the bin, is sent to the main servers, where technicians use the result to determine whether the smart garbage cans need to be emptied or not.

How Are Smart Garbage Cans Transforming the Cities?

Manuel Maestrini, the founder and chief technology officer of Nordsense, was quoted saying that it takes only 30 seconds to empty a trash can that is not completely full. But emptying an overflowing trash can and clean the surrounding area can take several minutes.

Smart garbage cans are making the waste collection and waste management processes more efficient in major cities of the world. They can help the municipal waste management departments map out a route for on-time waste collection.

The sensors placed inside the smart garbage cans, can help the data analysts to predict the maximum waste disposal in the garbage cans against time. So, if the solid waste management department is informed that within the next 3 hours, most of the garbage cans in Manhattan will reach their full capacity, they can deploy their waste collection trucks to empty the trash can before they start to overflow.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, Nordsense was requested to install 48 smart trash bins. It was found that just within 2 hours of service each day, the prototype smart trash bins managed to reduce complaints of overflowing trash bins by 66%. And there was a 64% decrease in the illegal dumping of prohibited waste because the sensors also help detect what kind of waste has been thrown in the smart garbage cans.


In Pittsburgh, a deal was signed with Victor Stanley Inc. to install 1,200 smart garbage cans over a duration of 4 years. According to the data collected during the pilot study, the installation of Victor Stanley smart garbage cans reduced the time spent on waste collection by 50%. The data also helped the officials determine which neighborhoods require frequent waste collection and which neighborhoods have seldom used extra trash bins.

The new generation of sensors inside the smart garbage cans can also detect whether the bin has been knocked over or if there is movement inside the cans. This can help the sanitation team reach the site within no time and clean the mess caused by knocked over cans or deal with rodents inside the bins. The company aims to make its next generation of smart garbage cans more advanced by installing odor detecting sensors. So, even if the bin has only reached 25% of its capacity, but the smell from the waste bin has reached high odor levels, the collection team will be deployed to empty it and collect the smelly waste.

New York City

In New York City, BigBelly partnered with the Times Square Alliance group to provide smart garbage cans across the city. The company also decided to place recycling bins alongside the smart garbage cans for recycling cans, bottles, and paper.

The technologically advanced smart garbage cans manufactured by BigBelly came with a built-in solar-powered compactor that compacts the cardboard boxes, disposable cups, and Styrofoam lunch packs. Compacting the waste allows the smart garbage cans to hold 5 times more waste than normal waste bins. This reduces the need for waste collection from some of the busiest streets of New York, to only twice a day.

Additional Features of Smart Garbage Cans

The Nordsense smart garbage cans can even detect temperature changes inside the bins. This is helpful in-case a burning cigarette was chucked inside the bin. Before the cigarette butt can light the solid waste inside the smart garbage can on fire, the waste management team can be sent to the site to deal with the issue.

The BigBelly smart trash cans have a unique feature that allows the company to lock or unlock all the cans remotely and simultaneously. So, in case of a big event where there is a threat of a possible terrorist attack, all the smart garbage cans can instantly be locked to ensure that explosive devices are not placed inside the trash cans.

The South Korean based Ecube Labs uses an application to instruct and direct its waste collection drivers to take the most convenient and optimal route for waste collection from its smart bins. Just like the Uber Pool rides, the company is mapping the route for its drivers so that they can empty all the bins that have reached their full capacity in just one route around the city. The company says that by using this method, they have been able to increase the efficiency of waste collection by 78%.

And now, Ecube Lab has innovated its smart garbage cans further by installing video displays and making the bins bomb resistant. Although these upgraded smart trash bins cost 300 times more than the older versions, the modifications have been welcomed with open arms at the military bases.

Can Smart Garbage Cans Help Us Manage Solid Waste?

The answer is a resounding yes! In Philadelphia alone, the deployment of smart garbage cans has decreased 1.1 million collections per year. Not only have the number of collections reduced, but the amount of time being spent on cleaning the mess from overflowing trash cans has also been reduced. Instead of picking up the lid of every trash can and deciding whether it needs to be emptied or not, the municipal waste management companies can now monitor the waste in every single smart garbage can from within their offices, plan out a route for the sanitation team in advance, and prevent incidents of overflowing, fires, and vandalism.

The use of smart garbage cans has been so effective for solid waste management that the smart garbage cans/bins market size is said to reach a $12.3 million mark by 2025.

Final Word

Here at Titan National, we understand the need to transform our cityscapes through efficient and effective management of solid waste. For more information on dumpster rentals, call us today at 248.775.7400.