Everything around us is getting ‘smart.’ Smart devices have invaded our homes, we carry them with us wherever we go, they’re changing the ways we live and work, and are shaping our communities and the areas we live. Everything is becoming so simple for us because smart technology is starting to handle most of our dirty work. In recent years, the concept of ‘smart cities’ has gained traction worldwide as cities are turning to many different types of technology to address urban challenges and improve sustainability.

Gage Edwards, Content Producer

March 27, 2024

7 Min Read
Chroma Craft Media Group / Alamy Stock Photo

Everything around us is getting 'smart.' Smart devices have invaded our homes, and we carry them with us wherever we go. They're changing the ways we live and work and shaping our communities and the areas we live in. Everything is becoming so simple for us because smart technology is starting to handle most of our dirty work. In recent years, the concept of 'smart cities' has gained traction worldwide as cities are turning to many types of technology to address urban challenges and improve sustainability.

Across the United States, smart city initiatives drive innovations in waste management, transportation, composting, energy efficiency, and more. These cities are taking advantage of budding technology and new software in the waste industry to address waste reduction and enhance overall sustainability. Some locations utilize smart technology in haulers to move waste around a city effectively. In contrast, others have turned to a full rollout of smart bins to make recycling easier for residents. These smarter solutions also collect data so companies can work with local governments to improve waste management as populations increase and priorities change.

With every new device we own, it's no secret that data collection is foundational for smart technology and a driving force for smart cities to enhance sustainability and overall optimization. Like how music app Spotify collects data to send fun, end-of-the-year music wrap-ups, smart waste technology is learning about the best routes to take for trash collection, recycling behaviors of its communities, monitoring equipment health, and more. This information is crucial for smart cities to monitor and optimize various aspects of urban life, and the waste industry is taking full advantage of this information to enhance its products and services.

Waste360 contacted several companies to see how each is integrating technology. Each utilizes specific software and learning tools to be more efficient and cost-effective and promote sustainability in large communities.

Companies that play an integral role in Smart Cities:

Environmental Solutions Group  

The Environmental Solutions Group (ESG) integrates its vast portfolio of products and services with service providers nationwide to create sustainable opportunities. EGS brings its Connected Collections program, which consists of Heil, 3rd Eye, and Soft-Pak Software Solutions, to help fleet owners run their businesses more efficiently.

Through Connected Collections, EGS can bring its technology to an array of vehicles that travel throughout cities daily, collecting information seamlessly across an entire community. This allows cities to access a vast pool of data to be analyzed to pinpoint and learn from issues within communities. Trucks that utilize the 3rd Eye technology are equipped with eight cameras, giving them 360 degrees of visibility around the vehicle, and the 3rd Eye Gateway transmits data to the cloud in real time. 3rd Eye also monitors driver safety and tracks engine data to avoid maintenance issues with automatic work orders. In addition, 3rd Eye tracks revenue-generating and cost-reduction solutions, working to save haulers money.

Using the company's mobile solutions, EGS advances the productivity of a city when compared to stationary hardware. Mobility allows for continuous street monitoring to ensure safety and promote efficiency. It fosters more sustainable fleet operations. The data captured by mobile solutions like those at EGS provide a continuous stream of video and image data to provide cities meaningful insights, and actions and analysis of this data are crucial for a functional smart city.

BigBelly

Transportation is crucial for smart cities to be ahead of the game. Still, another factor pushing sustainability for communities in smart cities is increasing recycling rates effectively. This is where BigBelly comes in with its solar-powered smart bins, which allow customers to make smarter decisions and limit the chance of contamination.

The smart waste systems that BigBelly delivers help to achieve waste containment, which can vastly improve a city's cleanliness. They also provide real-time insights and waste capacity data via compaction. This compaction can reduce collections by 80%, which can lead to a 70% reduced carbon footprint. The company's smart bins boast five times the collection capacity and feature smart technology that provides real-time alerts for overflowing and other issues.

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BigBelly’s CLEAN™ Management Software allows customers to make real-time and long-term decisions about waste collection. The software helps customers quickly enable BigBelly’s technology throughout a community with the software’s console and mobile tools. The software helps with automated collection results (customized to the city), a real-time and historical data dashboard, fleet and bin management when the hardware needs to be serviced, and an easy-to-use installation setup. Through ease of installation and proof of efficiency, BigBelly’s products have been integrated into public space waste bins, making for cleaner streets, parks, and transit systems. At the municipality level, the company’s smart waste system is helping transform communities into smart cities with real-time data reports.

In addition to BigBelly’s current offerings, the company is gearing up to launch a new residential smart compost system for residents in urban areas. The new program will give residents access to compost bins 24/7 and provide users with a mobile app to find and unlock compost bins.

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Through its advanced technology, BigBelly is helping customers achieve sustainability goals such as implementing uniform recycling, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preventing plastic pollution. BigBelly has served communities for over 20 years, starting in 2003, and now serves over 2500 active customers across 60 countries. With such a strong footprint in the waste industry, BigBelly is a force in the public space waste and recycling solutions industry, determined to transform the industry to be more efficient, less resource-heavy, and smarter every day.

Rubicon

Circling back to digital solutions to help with transportation and fleet operations, Rubicon is one of the companies leading the way in the smart city movement. Rubicon provides software-based waste, recycling, and fleet operation products for businesses and governments, serving over 8,000 vendors and haulers. Rubicon supports cities with its software, helping them become proactive rather than reactive so that it may address and solve issues before they become major pains.

For Rubicon, the mission and focus are straightforward regarding helping smart cities: help cities deliver waste and save money. This is achieved by reducing the time spent on waste function operations, trucks on the road, limiting the wear and tear on a vehicle, and other fleet-related issues. In addition, Rubicon works with cities to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfills and reduce the cost required to get waste from one place to another, reducing emissions stemming from a city’s waste stream.

The company achieves these goals through its software, which delivers optimized routes and fleets so that cities can accomplish waste collection and waste transportation to appropriate locations with the least number of miles traveled by collection vehicles possible. Garbage trucks are notoriously inefficient vehicles for travel, averaging two miles per gallon of gas. Keeping these trucks on the roads for the shortest amount of time possible can create more efficient smart cities and significantly reduce greenhouse gases and wear and tear on roads.

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The challenges that cities face when transitioning to a 'smarter' infrastructure shouldn't be overlooked, and the companies that help cities achieve the title of a 'smart city' often perform a thankless job. Still, Rubicon has consistently shown it's up to the task. While the trucks still run daily, the work Rubicon does behind the scenes is immense. From optimizing those routes while tracking ROI and real-time cost savings to helping scale up and work with teams to understand the software and promote safety, Rubicon is taking on large jobs and promoting sustainability through its software. The change from analog to digital can be a tall task in any industry, but Rubicon hasn't shied away from the challenge.

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The rise of smart technology is revolutionizing the waste industry and how providers care for their customers and residents. Companies like Environmental Solutions Group, BigBelly, and Rubicon are leaders of this movement and allow this evolving landscape of smart cities to leverage technology to address urban challenges and sustainability. These companies' innovations enable cities to tackle unique challenges, protect their environments, and lower daily waste stream handling costs.

The role of smart technology in urban development will only get more prominent. We're still early in the age of smart technology, and with AI blowing up all around us, businesses, products, and everything else in our lives will only keep evolving rapidly. This will lead to more significant shifts in waste management as companies continue implementing these breakthroughs, leading us all into a more sustainable future.

About the Author(s)

Gage Edwards

Content Producer, Waste360

Gage Edwards is a Content Producer at Waste360 and seasoned video editor.

Gage has spent the better part of 10 years creating content in various industries but mostly revolving around video games.

Gage loves video games, theme parks, and loathes littering.

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