Smart Cities, please bring the Internet of Things to public bins!

This is not a picture from the past, but an ordinary street panorama we usually enjoy here in Barcelona…Yes, in one of the top ranked Smart City in Europe we still have to cope with this. How is it possible? Well I have my opinion that I keep to myself for the moment.

Barcelona seems to have a good waste and cleaning service, everywhere you can see people sweeping the streets and trucks collecting garbage.

According to the local authorities,” Uninterrupted maintenance and respect for the environment are the priorities of Barcelona’s cleaning service”. It is true that the waste containers are distributed around the in a way that makes it easy and accessible for everyone, I have at least 5 disposal points at less than 5 mn walking from home, with all the possible containers I may need:  those for general household waste (grey), glass (green), paper (blue) and plastic packaging, tetra paks and other polycoat cartons, cans (yellow). All of them being user friendly, accessible, easy to open (well sometimes not that easy…), with tactile symbols that indicates the container’s waste type to blind people.

If having a perfectly planned selective waste disposal systems is not enough to make sure we do not end with overfilled and not always carefully selectively sorted containers, what is the solution?

Some cities and specialists say it may be better to implement a one-bin recycling system, mainly arguing that it would reduce city waste management cost… I am a bit skeptical in the case of Barcelona.

An alternative would be a “Smart Bin System”, with containers integrating sensors and, why not, cameras…, In short implementing the Internet of Thing technology to our good old containers network. With such a systems local authorities would know which containers are full, and where they are located. This would help the city to optimize the collection trucks fleet daily job and routing, and reduce the municipality cost of collection while improving service. This has already been implemented in various cities such as Cascai in Portugal.

Personally I would choose a “smart bin” kind of systems, no doubt it will come, it is a matter of time and money.  In the meantime I still think the key to effective waste reduction and management is EDUCATION…. Barcelona has put in place various programs and launched several campaigns. here again it is a matter of time….. and mentality.


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