Digital Cities & Citizens

Satisfied customers and fewer collections with smart garbage bins

Caroline Wendt
March 10, 2020

‍When customers were able to choose when it was time to empty their garbage bins there were 40 percent fewer collections. This is the result of a project where sensors are used to transform waste disposal to make it both cheaper and better.

Part of Future by Lund’s SOM-project has been to see how sensors can transform and improve the efficiency of the waste disposal industry. In Lund, some of Lunds Renhållningsverks containers have been fitted with sensors to make it easier to keep track of where they are located. One ambition has been to measure the level of some garbage bins where the collections have become too expensive. A test was conducted in Helsingborg for approximately 250 detached dwelling households with multi-compartment garbage bins. Previously, the garbage bins were collected at fixed intervals according to a fixed schedule. But for the test the householders could instead choose for themselves when it was time to empty their garbage bins.

Tom Johansen of Bintel AB is project manager of the experiments with smart garbage disposal.

– The municipalities have reacted to the issue that many garbage bins are emptied unnecessarily, he says. For this project we have left the responsibility to the householders, who know best when the garbage bins need to be emptied. The results we found from the people involved are incredibly exciting.

Lund University has since evaluated the project and it revealed several interesting outcomes. The most noteworthy impact was that collections were reduced by as much as 40 per cent when the customers could decide for themselves. As a result, the wear and tear on garbage trucks was also reduced. At the same time there were also fewer discrepancies in the form of, for example, overloaded containers and waste bins that were not in the right place.

As part of project analysis, some interviews were also conducted with customers. The customers’ responses showed that they were satisfied, both with the tailored collections and with the ease of use of the technology. They also felt an increased personal interest in waste management.  

The customers have requested new compartmentalization of the bins, which could lengthen the frequency of collection even further. At present, the need for emptying is based on the size of the receptacles, where components such as cardboard, plastic and food waste are perceived to be the controlling parameters.

The university also conducted interviews with Nordvästra Skånes Renhållnings AB (NSR), which is the company responsible for garbage collection in Helsingborg. The employees attested that the collection rounds have become more efficient than before.

There was hope that the trial run of demand-driven collection would mean that customers plan their purchases differently so that they carry home less packaging, but this effect has not yet been analyzed in the project.

The tax on waste management was unchanged during the trial regardless of how many collections a household ordered. The customer interviews revealed that there is a need for additional incentives for customers to reduce the number of collections. Some such incentives could be the lowering of taxes for fewer collections or competitions with prizes awarded for the reduction of waste.

– We have addressed one of the most cost-affected waste applications and have demonstrated an increased efficiency. With this in mind it can be stated that all waste collection in the future is likely to be demand-driven, not scheduled, explains Tom Johansen.

Here is how it was made: the customer’s four-compartment bin was equipped with a switch, which contains a radio transmitter that can send a signal. When the switch was manually activated a signal was sent indicating that the bin needs to be emptied. The signal travelled via a LoRa-network and was then sent into a route planning program for the garbage trucks. The collection took place on the same day or two days after at the latest.

Translation: Ben Dohrmann


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