Smart Waste Management, an idea that cannot be scrapped

Published by Telefónica IoT Team Smart Cities

We have already covered in detail some of the core services that improve the well-being of citizens in Smart Cities. After talking about Smart Parking and Smart Lighting. We want to focus our attention on Smart Waste Management.

Managing rubbish is one of the best kept secrets in smooth-running cities. The direct advantages of applying technology to streamline the waste collection process are:

  • optimized collection routes
  • only full containers are set for collection
  • dynamic routes for vehicles
  • container overflow avoided, efficient use of resources  and smaller pollution footprint
  • robust energy-efficient sensors
  • unexpected real time events taken into consideration
  • efficient management of waste receptacles

According to the Finnish Smart Waste Management firm Enevo, this service can achieve a 50% operational cost reduction through digitization. By adding compacting technology to further extend collection intervals, Ecube Labs estimates that operational costs can be reduced to 80%. There are four critical elements in this proven m2m system:

  • Fleet of Connected Waste Collection Vehicles
  • Waste Containers Sensors
  • A centralised management system that can be added to a central Smart City Platform
  • Connectivity to relay information to the management system from the endpoints

Let’s see in detail how the processes and elements combine for the service to work:

Optimized Collection Routes

Connected waste containers are equipped with sensors that use one or many technologies for level detection and for relaying this and other relevant information. Ultrasound or other technologies are used to measure the waste level. This data is relayed to the central management system and combined to design collection routes based on container levels. Vehicles are equipped with devices such as GPS or pollution sensors (to measure the environmental footprint of the service) among others.

Only full containers are set for collection

Containers have thresholds to indicate whether they are full or not. The management system defines which containers have passed a certain fill threshold, and thus need to be collected and which ones can wait at least one more day.

Dynamic Routes for Vehicles

Business Intelligence kicks in here. With the list of containers that require collection and their location, the system creates optimized collection routes, taking into consideration the available vehicles.

Container overflow avoided, efficient use of resources and smaller pollution footprint

Besides the obvious benefit of reducing pollution (routes are optimized) and the efficient use of human resources and vehicles (less people and less vehicles required), citizens have the immediate positive perception of not having to endure overflow rubbish and that cause odors and attract rodents.

Robust energy-efficient sensors

Sensors benefit from technological advancements and modern devices have especially improved in terms of energy efficiency in recent years. Modern m2m sensors adapt to all kind of existing containers (even underground ones) and can work on batteries autonomously for 10 years extending the life cycle of the devices before needing replacement.

Real-Time events

Big Data and Smart City Platform integration can add useful information to Waste Management Systems such as road restrictions, traffic conditions, etc. adapting routes to real-time events ensuring that the service is carried out as efficiently as always even when setbacks kick in.

Efficient management of waste receptacles

Containers report their status on a daily basis. If the sensor stops working or collection of that container has not been carried out an automatic alert is triggered and action can be taken to send the maintenance crew or request an unscheduled collection.

Waste collection, although invisible to citizens when everything is running well, is a core service for Smart Cities and a relevant cost for city councils. Adding technology to the mix creates an improved and cost-efficient service that relies on a fleet of connected waste collection vehicles, connected containers, a centralised system to manage the service and connectivity as the IoT-backbone to make everything work.

Picture: Karasev Victor /


Telefónica IoT Team