Are you wasting time and money emptying half-full trash cans? Learn how Pittsburgh is reducing manpower with smart cans

by Brianna Crandall — August 2, 2019 — More than 1,000 public garbage cans containing sensors that track how full the cans are have been deployed around the City of Pittsburgh. The city’s vendor for the “smart” receptacles is Victor Stanley.

Victor Stanley “smart” garbage cans labeled for Pittsburgh, with the city’s old cans in the foreground

Victor Stanley “smart” garbage cans labeled for Pittsburgh, with the city’s old cans in the foreground. Credit: City of Pittsburgh Department of Innovation & Performance

Victor Stanley smart garbage cans

Victor Stanley points out that most waste and recycling collection systems follow a static model, where containers are picked up regardless of their content or fill level, with the result that some containers overflow before they are collected, while others sit empty or only partially full, yet are picked up anyway.

Victor Stanley’s smart garbage cans are designed to modernize this system by monitoring the fill levels and weights of all containers, so that they can be collected at the optimal time. This service saves on collection expenses and ensures resources are allocated efficiently, while reducing fuel costs, carbon footprints, and unsightly overflowing waste.

Victor Stanley Relay Sensors can be hidden within most Victor Stanley litter receptacles, recycling stations and lids. The sensors are designed and built to remain reliable and accurate even in harsh environmental conditions, and they work with any type of waste (general trash, mixed recyclables, paper, glass, metals, etc.).

Pittsburgh’s deployment

The Department of Public Works first proposed adopting the cans in 2017, when it recognized the need to replace hundreds of old litter cans around the city, knowing that the smart cans would help with efficiencies and cost savings. The city purchased a mix of entirely new cans and lids with sensors to retrofit existing cans.

Studies by DPW and the Department of Innovation and Performance of the smart cans since their original deployment have shown that they result in savings of at least half the labor hours needed for the emptying typical cans, allowing DPW to reallocate resources to other needed tasks, such as pothole patching, litter picking, and weed and debris clearing.

DPW Director Mike Gable stated:

The smart cans allow DPW to offer better refuse services to Pittsburgh residents and neighborhood business districts, while freeing up our workers to do other work to keep the city tidy.

Matt Jacob, the project manager for the program for the Department of Innovation and Performance, remarked:

Based on our analysis, we expect that the smart litter cans will give us the ability to make process improvements that will reduce the amount of labor hours spent on emptying garbage cans by at least half. As a result, DPW will be able to reallocate those resources to other tasks.

DPW is in talks with unions representing its workers to possibly open a centralized litter can division and introduce expanded weekend garbage can collection services in business districts.

For more information on the Victor Stanley Relay sensors or Pittsburgh’s deployment of the smart garbage cans, visit the company’s website.