The City of Pittsburgh’s Departments of Innovation & Performance and Public Works are using data to drive efficiency and cost savings in waste management.
In June, the city deployed over 1000 smart trash cans equipped with sensors to indicate the level of fullness. This data is being used to map more efficient collection routes and gives valuable insight into waste behavior throughout the city. The project began in 2016 with a limited number of cans equipped with smart sensors deployed city wide for testing. The findings were significant - with only 13% of the cans reaching 90% capacity within a given day. This means diesel fleets were circling town and clocking valuable labor hours for unnecessary collections at up to 87% of cans!
Conversely, data is now being used to increase pickups in areas more prone to trash accumilation to keep Pittsbugh's streets clean. Trends can monitored to determine if and where cans should be relocated for optimal distribution based off real use data.
The initiative is expected to reduce the resources for trash collection by half - likely more if you consider the above statistics observed since initial rollout. The resources once spent on inefficient trash collection can now be reallocated to other tasks in Public Works, resulting in better service all around for their residents.
The significant reduction in resources and labor hours required for trash collection means fewer waste management vehicles on the road. This supports Pittsburgh’s larger Climate Action Plan to reduce transportation emissions by 50% by 2030.
Trash is trending
Other innovative municipalities have been making moves to streamline waste management with better use of data and technology. Montgomery, AL, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC (among others) have been experimenting with “smart” cans, applications, and fleet management software to improve efficiency and slash emissions.
Pittsburgh's story is not unlike these others - It's just one more way people are coming together to leverage new technologies to work smarter and deliver better results to their communities.