Smart Waste Management in Smart +Equitable NYC (New York City - United States of America)

Case Study

Smart Waste Management in Smart +Equitable NYC (New York City - United States of America)

New York City has the world’s largest Department of Sanitation, responsible for the collection of more than 10,500 tonnes of residential and institutional waste and 1,760 tonnes of recyclables every day. Businesses located in the city generate 13,000 tonnes of waste on a daily basis, which is then collected by private companies. This is a huge waste problem, mainly derived from the “throwaway” mindset of the citizens.

The “OneNYC” plan has two main goals regarding waste management: reduce commercial waste disposal 90% by 2030 and minimise the waste that is generated and then sent to landfills.

Since the amount of waste varies drastically according to a variety of factors (such as weather conditions, events in the city, and pedestrian flow), defining a waste collection schedule is a difficult task, and overflowing containers are frequent.

To tackle this situation, the City of New York introduced the Bigbelly smart waste cans. These bins, which are equipped with integrated wireless sensors to detect trash level and Wi-Fi hotspots, help the government to collect data about waste management and display public service announcements and alerts. These smart containers can store 5 times more waste than an ordinary public garbage bin thanks to solar-powered compaction. The trash cans allow for organic waste disposal, and recycling of paper, plastic, and glass. Remote monitoring via wireless technology notifies the city’s sanitation workers when units require emptying.

A partnership with the Alliance for Downtown New York and Bigbelly led to the installation of nearly 200 units in lower Manhattan, after a series of successful pilots. In total, this number has already increased to 700 smart waste and recycling systems citywide (data from 2015).


Case study city(ies)
Case study country(ies)
Agencie(s) involved in the case

Improved solid waste management;

Improved Bio-Waste management;

Improved Energy management.


Description of the specific objectives:

- Improving the city’s waste collection and management system;

- Offer a wider free Wi-Fi network to the citizens.


City of New York; Bigbelly; Alliance for Downtown New York.


- New York has a very substantial waste problem that has to be solved by optimising the waste collection and management process to ensure a more environmental friendly and economic solution;

- There should also be a plan to act at the source of the problem: the “throwaway” mindset that originates massive waste production.

Solutions deployed

Solar-powered Bigbelly waste and recycling units; Wi-Fi hotspots.

Smart Solution(s) deployed by the case

Installation of more than 700 smart waste and recycling systems throughout New York City.

Results and Impacts

- Each waste container has sensors to detect when a bin is full or exhales bad odours, allowing sanitation service providers to plan their routes and collect the waste where it is most needed, instead of following a predefined schedule. This saves a very significant amount of time;

- Bigbelly estimates that their smart waste management units improve waste collection efficiency by 50% to 80%, which also reduces the trips that are necessary to collect the waste (the need to empty full bins has been reduced by 75%), therefore significantly reducing the amount of greenhouse gases and air pollution;

- Since the Alliance for Downtown New York began its recycling programme, the Bigbelly units (which can hold 5 to 6 times more waste than conventional bins), have collected more than 37 tonnes of paper and 27 tonnes of bottle and can recyclables (data from 2015). In 2014, the Bigbelly smart waste system collected more than 367 tonnes of waste in Lower Manhattan, reducing the number of garbage bags collected and freeing space for other uses.

Attachment Size
NYC Smart Equitable City - brochure.pdf 6.01 MB