• Aasavari Joshi

Smart Cities and IoT: The Future of Waste Management

Urbanisation, resource scarcity, and population growth are only a few of the major factors contributing to social and environmental issues in the twenty-first century. Many metropolitan regions are adopting green efforts and sustainable solutions. Cities are becoming smarter, more resource-efficient, and more resource-saving by utilising technology and innovation to enhance current systems. The amount of waste currently being generated is enormous and rising quickly as a result of the expanding population.


A key area that requires immediate improvement is the management of waste. Currently, most garbage collection systems are out-of-date and conduct pick-ups that are either unnecessary or late. Annual collection costs increase by 70% as a result of unnecessary pickups. Inefficient route planning leads to congestion and increases the amount of gasoline needed to conduct the collections. This results in a 50% increase in the overall carbon footprint. By designing a more effective route for garbage trucks, such problems could be resolved with the use of Internet of Things (IoT) waste management technologies. The necessity for emptying waste bins can be determined using IoT sensor technologies. Businesses, organisations, and citizens can all gain from this dynamic and customizable waste management system.

Smart cities are fundamentally based on IoT. Digital technology is integrated into every aspect of a smart city. There is an increasing need for intelligent and sustainable settings that reduce the environmental impact and provide residents with a high-quality life as global urbanisation continues to develop and the population is projected to double by 2050. A smart city is defined by the integration of technology, government, and society with the aim of creating a smart economy, environment, society and daily life.


A smart city is one that has modernised its approaches to garbage management and collection. In line with that, the waste industry is increasingly embracing IoT thinking. Asset scanning is already used in smart technology applications such as waste data collection, cart chip/sensor technology, real-time camera-based monitoring, and logistics optimisation for vehicle fleets. Globally, an ever-growing number of waste management companies are steadily using industrial IoT systems to monitor waste, vehicles, drivers, and customers in order to optimise all aspects of the key services provided.


Intelligent waste management is a culmination of distinct strategies. Any system or application that makes use of technology to enhance waste management is generally referred to as smart waste management. This essentially means that, thanks to technology, smart waste management is more effective, economical, and ecologically benign than traditional garbage management. IoT devices are items with sensors, processing power, and software that analyse and communicate data in real time. They are typically used for smart waste management.


How is this done?

Technology-driven waste bins ensure that waste is sorted correctly by using the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to recognize and separate different types of waste. A Polish company, Bin-E, is already making strides in this area. They have created a smart bin that recognizes waste, sorts it into the correct category such as glass or plastic, compresses the waste, and monitors the bin’s fill level. The company estimates that this results in 80% lower waste management costs, improved employee time management, and an increase in efficiency by 70%.


The best approach to build a smart waste management system is with waste level monitors. Waste in bins is measured and tracked by sensors, which then relay that information to collection providers. As a result, the service is informed when the bins are full and is also better able to plan collections depending on how long it typically takes for the bins to fill. Costs can be cut down by up to 50% by integrating waste level sensors and a fill-level monitoring platform. This can be especially useful to use resources more wisely and with limited finances.

This technology is already available today. Many large cities have already started applying intelligent waste management strategies in their neighbourhoods. An example is San Francisco. To improve waste management, smart garbage cans are being used. Bigbelly garbage cans, the world’s leading waste and recycling solution for public spaces, were first introduced by the municipality in San Francisco’s neighbourhoods in 2018. There exist even versions with solar-powered compactor technology for these containers, which monitor garbage levels. Similarly in South Korea's Songdo, there are no garbage trucks operating there. Instead, the city uses a Roosevelt Island-style pneumatic garbage disposal system.


In 2014, the city of Amsterdam, one of Europe's smartest cities, implemented garbage truck load monitoring. Additionally, 12,500 fill-level sensors were installed by the city in trash cans all around the urban region. In Manhattan in New York City, in turn, Bigbelly trash containers can be found throughout. They not only monitor garbage and gather data, but also serve as WiFi hotspots for anyone nearby.


More efficient and sustainable waste collection is now seen as an essential service for smart cities. With the help of cameras, sensors, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking, waste collection can be made more efficient. A paradigm for networked data exchange between the back office, trucks, and drivers is now incorporated into smart fleet management systems. This enables route optimization, completes container asset management, increases safety, and creates more effective and sustainable operations.


A growing number of interconnected IoT devices are being used to handle daily urban operations, which is improving both citizens’ experiences and the carbon footprint. However, more support from the public and private sectors is required for IoT to further advance waste management efficiency. This support includes more regulation and incentives, as well as more innovation and engagement with various state agencies to use IoT applications to create a better and more sustainable future.


In the foreseeable future, there will be more opportunities to build a smarter, more eco-friendly city that makes a contribution to a cleaner planet. Because the solution is already existent with IoT technology and is only becoming better, the 3 R's (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) do not have to be an aspirational mantra for policymakers regarding garbage. The life cycle of waste must be improved via a comprehensive waste management system. Therefore, participation from consumers, businesses, manufacturers, and recyclers is required to recover materials from our generated waste and use it as a new resource to create new materials or goods.