Pic-of-the-litter technology tested to make waste collection smarter in Edmonton

A lot of the changes on Edmonton’s waste landscape (think the Edmonton Cart Rollout) are there to be seen in black and green. There are also important potential changes going on behind closed bins.

“Waste management is a shared responsibility between Edmontonians and the City,” said Chris Fowler, Director of Collection Services. “We want to show Edmonton residents that we are as committed to diverting waste in our own facilities as they are in their homes.”

Fowler is opening the lid on smart sensors.

In the fall of 2021, the City of Edmonton installed 200 Pello sensors in more than 50 municipal collection bins at recreation centres, libraries and other facilities. The photographic sensors use ultrasonic waves to get a picture of how much and what kind of waste is in the bin. 

“By taking a photo of the waste inside, we can determine at a glance if there is contamination or improperly sorted waste,” said Fowler. “This information is relayed to Waste Services staff who are able to monitor individual collection bins in real time.”

An image from inside a City of Edmonton recycling bin. Photo courtesy Pello.

Smart technology is increasingly being used in waste management departments around the world. Sensors tracking the fill level of bins can help optimize collection schedules so only full bins are emptied, while photos taken by sensors can potentially be processed through machine learning software to help identify and categorize bin waste.

The Internet sensors at City of Edmonton facilities are part of a pilot project to measure and track waste in front-loading bins. They are funded through a Sustainable Development Technology Canada grant.

The goal of the project is to determine how accurate and reliable the smart sensors are, and if more should be installed in other City collection bins, said Fowler.

A Pello smart sensor in a City of Edmonton collection bin.

“Edmonton’s 25-year Waste Strategy established the long-term goal of significantly increasing waste reduction and the amount of waste we divert from landfill,” said Fowler. “Understanding the composition of waste at City-owned and operated facilities is an important step that can be supported by innovative technology.” 

Editor’s note: the not-Edmonton pic at the top of the post, courtesy RecycleSmart, shows waste being watched by a Pello smart sensor.