Sorting and managing waste could be made much easier by using smart household and public garbage bins, which automatically compact the rubbish and also provide real-time information on how full they are.

Efficient urban waste management is an essential aspect of the Smart City. While the primary argument for better waste management systems is the environmental one, there is also an economic rationale in terms of more efficient deployment of the urban maintenance workforce. Massachusetts, USA-based startup Big Belly Solar reckons that its solar-powered connected BigBelly communal rubbish containers, which are programmed to provide real-time information on how full they are, meet both criteria. 

L’Atelier caught up with the company team at the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) which took place on 18-20 November in Barcelona. Originally named Seahorse Power, the firm initially focused on the hardware aspect of the product – rubbish bins for urban spaces. The bins are equipped with an internal waste compacting system, which means that each container can take up to five times the amount of garbage of a traditional bin of that size. BigBelly bins also have a solar panel fitted in the lid to power the battery, enabling them to work in independent power mode. Thirdly, they are provided with sensors which feed information back on how full the receptacle is. A city authority investing in this equipment has the option of installing separate bins for plastic waste and ‘green’ waste streams.


Having established the basic concept and proved its efficiency, with local authority customers in major cities across the United States and at several urban locations in the UK, the company has begun to work in SaaS mode, turning the high-performance garbage containers into ‘smart’ bins. The wireless technology-enabled units can be programmed to report their status into the company’s CLEAN (Collection, Logistics, Efficiency and Notification system) dashboard, which gives the local waste management administration department insights for monitoring, collection and truck-route optimisation. The software generates a map showing the location of the bins, displaying them in green when they are empty and red when full. The firm claims to have enabled local authorities to reduce on average from ten to seven the number of daily journeys each garbage collection truck has to make.


Last but not least, BigBelly Solar is trying out ‘gamification’ techniques to highlight efficiency improvements in the deployment of garbage collection trucks and overall progress made in the speed of waste collection. The system is also able to point up those city areas where the number of bins needs to be increased.

By Aurore Geraud
Senior Editor & Analyst