What is an intelligent bin?

An intelligent bin is a term for a bin with an ultrasonic bin monitoring device. These are small hockey puck-sized cellular devices that are usually permanently installed in bins. They have an ultrasonic sensor and normally have a motion sensor, temperature sensor, and a tilt switch. They can have up to a 10-year battery life, dependent on how often they turn on to measure and communicate. The intelligent ultrasonic devices are waterproof and temperature/chemical resistant and can be installed in a variety of containers to measure the level of solids or liquids.

Commercial waste management companies can take advantage of the cost savings from the intelligent ultrasonic bin devices when bidding for new business. The savings from deployment of the ultrasonic devices can range from 15 percent average cost savings to upwards of 50 percent in cost savings.


To efficiently and fully integrate with these ultrasonic bin-monitoring devices, you need a robust back end in your waste management software. The back end needs to monitor fill progress, tell you when the bins are nearing full capacity, create a billable or non-billable routable entry, and possibly advise others via e-mail or text of the events. The back end software also needs to optimize your routes each day to ensure you are efficiently serving the accounts.

When making the switch to intelligent bins for a limited deployment, such as when seeking a new block of business, your productivity will not suffer from changing routes each day. For most ultrasonic devices, the added cost will only show cost savings on about 3-yard and larger sized bins. It is usually best to upsize a bin, if reducing the service, to increase productivity. Most bins will be consistently serviced full at the same interval most times, leading to more or less semi-static routes over time. However, it will be important that your waste management software optimizes the routes when using intelligent bin devices so that you maintain or improve your productivity.

In some cases, with an intelligent bin device, you could identify and service a bin before it overloads, potentially increasing cash flow, reducing service time from cleaning up the overflow, and saving the associated costs. Overflowing bins are an eyesore and a detriment to both your image and that of your customer. On the upside, these are opportunities to increase service. The intelligent bin device can be set to trigger at 80 percent of a full bin (or any percentage), so quite possibly you could service it the next day and have up to a 20 percent cushion to prevent overflow instances.

Differentiate Yourself from the Competition

New business could be captured more easily by differentiating yourself from the competitors and marketing the potential savings from “intelligent bins” to new customers. Inevitably, certain large customers will demand intelligent bins for the cost savings and the reduction in their carbon footprint. A smaller carbon footprint is also optimal for a commercial hauler to promote their business and one more reason to strategically adopt intelligent devices.

Some ultrasonic sensors not only tell you the waste level, but they also indicate when the bin is on fire or tipped over. You could potentially use the tip-over indicator feature of an intelligent bin device to tell you when the bin is emptied by triggering the tip-over switch in cases where you don’t have weigh-in-motion/RFID to confirm tips. Or, if the intelligent bin device is mounted on the inside of the lid for measurement, the tip-over mechanism can advise you if the customer fully opened the lid. All that information could flow through to the back end of your waste management software if it is capable of registering that information.

Haulers are steadily adopting more technology to increase productivity, reduce costs, increase cash flow, and increase revenues. Smartly done and properly managed, adding technology reaps benefits. The adoption of smart routing tablets in the trucks, programs that optimize routes, data mining, CAN-bus data reporting, RFID tagging, weigh-in-motion, and other electronic goodies are all the start. Intelligent ultrasonic devices in bins are the eventual next step, if not for the customer, then for their own advantages. Chances are, some of the commercial haulers already have some ultrasonic devices in their bins, placed there on behalf of their customers. As we may see driverless trucks in the future increase safety and productivity, it only makes sense that the bins are intelligent, too, helping with the process of relaying more information than just saying “I’m over here.” Given time, I see commercial haulers eventually mass adopting the intelligent bin technology.


Case Study: Adopting Intelligent Bins

ROVA is GMT’s first hauler to mass adopt intelligent bins. Although they are a company jointly formed by 21 municipalities to pick up residential and municipal waste and recycling in the Netherlands, they decided to employ intelligent bin technology to better serve their own interests.

ROVA uses mostly large capacity bins with their compaction trucks, so the savings are significant. Dennis de Jong, ICT manager at ROVA, said, “Our aimed growth created some serious dilemmas for us. We couldn’t keep on collecting the way we were, because the complexity of logistical systems increases exponentially by differentiating collectible sorts that also vary across bin and collection systems. Besides, keeping the old-fashioned way of working would mean the doubling of our mobility routing and costs when adding new districts. The need to keep our business efficient and effective in such instances forced us to reconsider the way we were operating.”

ROVA used small cellular devices permanently installed in the bins to monitor waste and recycling levels. ROVA only empties the bins when they are reported full, reducing the company’s environmental footprint and saving money. According to Dennis de Jong, ICT manager at ROVA, “The conclusion is that we only collect filled bins and choose the optimal route to do that. The effects of this combination are significant. We save about 20 percent on vehicle-movement, and that translates into another 20 percent in savings for our organization.” Reduced truck emissions and reduced fuel consumption by using intelligent bins and route optimization software is making ROVA a greener operation.

GMT Europe BV, “Dynamic collection: customer case ROVA”, 2015

Written by Michael Solkshinitz