sustainable waste management

Towards a sustainable waste management model for the Smart City


Sustainability is a challenge for waste management systems in the cities. According to the recently published annual report on generation and management of municipal waste of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Spain annually generates a total of 22.2 million tons of urban waste, of which 53.4% ​​(11.8 million tons) have landfills as their final destination. It should be noted that in 2018 was approved an European package of measures on the circular economy which makes  member states recycle municipal waste by 60% by 2030.

Therefore, it is essential to put faith in a Smart City model that addresses the issue of waste management in a comprehensive way, taking into account the impact it has on the environment in order to counteract it. This is where technology can play a priceless role as a lever for transformation. Below, you will find four ways in which technology is helping to preserve sustainability in the waste management scope.

Route optimization

Following the same route every day is not always efficient. Changes in traffic, weather, or events of any kind can cause the most optimal route to change daily or all of a sudden. Real-time route optimization systems allow trucks to adjust their routes to save time and reduce emissions.

The Barcelona City Council is testing a real-time system that shows the activity of the different contractors on the ground. Itineraries, containers and vehicles are presented on a map using a dynamic and intuitive tool, which detects anomalous situations as they occur and  even, in the future, will allow to avoid them thanks to a predictive model. Through the application of IOT, Big Data and Stream Processing technologies, the City Council is changing the management and monitoring paradigm, from a reactive model based on reports of what happened yesterday, to a proactive model with the ability to monitor in real time.

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Smart containers

There are intelligent containers with sensors that detect trash levels to alert users or information systems when they are full. This information can play an important role in the efficiency of municipal services, as it improves the optimization of the aforementioned truck routes.

For example, the Terrassa City Council has implemented a module Complex Events Manager (CEP) based on Sentilo within the framework of a waste collection optimization project. The containers have volumetric, temperature, movement and battery sensors that publish data using LoRA technology on the platform Sentilo Terrassa. The CEP processes the information received in real time and applies the pre-programmed rules optimizing itineraries and collection areas.

Waste identification

The new service and management models include the identification of waste with the citizens who have generated it, for example, by recording the different interactions of consumers with containers in order to  increase recycling and make a better use of resources. Using NFC/Bluetooth technologies and devices installed in the containers,  citizens can be identified and all their interactions detected.

Having all this information allows to credit users who use the services correctly by applying discounts to their waste disposal tax. On the other hand, it allows public managers to take advantage of this new information through the new available analytical technologies.

AI waste characterization

Artificial intelligence-based applications can help cities’ waste management systems to better classify different types of waste. Systems based on artificial intelligence and computer vision are being currently developed.  These systems, once implemented on conveyor belts of sorting facilities, will be able to provide real-time analysis as well as offer valuable information to help facilities increase recycling rates. For example, such a system could verify the quality and degree of waste separation carried out by citizens.


Thanks to the digital transformation, the world is becoming more respectful with the environment, also in the waste scope. In light of the above examples, there is no doubt that, as we move forward on the path of digital transformation in municipal services, our Smart Cities will become increasingly sustainable.

Martí Fàbrega

Martí is a Digital Transformation Consultant and Senior Business Development Manager at Opentrends. His aim is to transform technology into business value for his clients, putting the greatest possible focus on innovation.