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Smart rubbish bins – success of an idea from WUT

A photo of the app on a tablet during operation in a vehicle collecting rubbish

The app on a tablet during operation in a vehicle collecting rubbish

Young innovators from the Warsaw University of Technology have developed a smart system of municipal waste management. The solution was implemented in Sierpc – a town with almost 20 thousand inhabitants in the mazowieckie voivodship. Every day almost 100 sensors measure how full rubbish bins are and provide information about the optimum route of waste collection.

How does it work? Special sensors were installed in existing paper, plastic and glass bins. They activate three times a day and measure how full the bins are. The collected data allow to optimise the route and save fuel and staff working time. A module with monthly reports allows to take strategic decisions on the basis of the data and have better communication in the waste collection company.

– The system touches upon widely understood Internet of Things (IoT), in which all devices communicate with each other – explains Jerzy Jastrzębiec-Jankowski, MSc. – At first we tested mobile technology but due to higher energy consumption we decided to apply radio communications LoRaWAN, which needed installation of its own antennas on roofs of a few buildings in the town. This allowed to prolong the lifespan of sensors from 3 months to 3 years.

– A significant challenge was to measure correctly how full a bin is – adds Mikołaj Domagalski. – Firstly, due to difficult conditions inside the bin, we decided to design a PCB equipped with an ultrasound sensor instead of a laser sensor, which is less resistant to dirt and dust. Secondly, the surface of waste is irregular and varied material, depending on the fraction, made us find an optimal position of the sensor and appropriate filtering of measurements.

A photo of the sensor prepared for assembly

Sensor prepared for assembly

– Previously, employees wrote down the emptied bins in a notebook and decisions were based on intuition – says Bartosz Wiktorzak, MSc. – Now all routes are registered and the manager has access to the data on the distance covered and on empty and regularly overflowing bins. On the basis of recommendations they can take the decision to have more frequent operation or to place additional bins.

A graphic with the heatmap of routes of a vehicle collecting rubbish

Heatmap of routes of a vehicle collecting rubbish

The solution was developed and implemented in 2019-2022 within the project "Sierpc 2.0 – EcoSmart solutions in the field of town management" co-funded from the Operational Programme Technical Assistance 2014-2020 and the state budget within the competition entitled "HUMAN SMART CITIES. Intelligent cities co-created by inhabitants".

Creators of the idea are open to new challenges – they are now looking for gminas and companies willing to cooperate.

The design teams consisted of WUT students and graduates: Mikołaj Domagalski (Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology), Jerzy Jastrzębiec-Jankowski (Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology), Wojciech Łęcki (Faculty of Transport), Kacper Skawiński (Faculty of Mechatronics), Bartosz Wiktorzak (Faculty of Geodesy and Cartography), whereas the project leader was Paweł Nowak, PhD, from the Faculty of Civil Engineering.