Smart Waste Management Isn’t Just for the First World

Waste Collection

Many people believe that becoming a smart city is a pinnacle project for countries that are already developed. First, one becomes a gleaming, elegant, and modern metropolis. Next, the city adds smart infrastructure on top. 

Copenhagen was recently named the “World’s Smartest City” in March 2019 due to its use of advanced electrical infrastructure, instrumented buildings, and a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. Before hosting the world’s smartest city, however, Denmark already had the world’s 10th highest global per capita income.

Not all countries in Europe are as developed as Denmark. Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia are among those lagging other European nations in terms of both income and infrastructure. Despite various economic challenges, these economies are generating their own smart city projects. These countries use smart cities not as a capstone project in already wealthy areas, but as a way to create wealth and higher standards of living for their citizens. 

What does this look like?

Smart Cities Start with Quality of Life (and Quick Wins)

Smart cities are popping up in unexpected geographies. Poland, for example is host to both Warsaw and Wroclaw, each of which were named among the world’s 100 smartest cities. The country has also entered into an agreement to exchange experience on building smart cities with countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. While not traditionally thought of as the most modern or wealthiest countries in Europe, these nations are walking-the-walk with investments in smart infrastructure.


For metropolises in these countries, the advent of intelligent infrastructure has been less about adding conveniences for citizens and more about remediating structural problems – inequality, mobility and pollution. A smart city in a less developed region might also pursue remedies that are bolt-ons to its existing infrastructure, as opposed to radical shifts like bulldozing roads and buildings to be replaced with sustainable communities.

In a city like Warsaw, for example, smart city projects have included:

  • Bike lanes and e-bike rentals
  • Transit apps letting residents pay for metro tickets using smartphones
  • Car-sharing initiatives
  • Tree planting
  • LED bulb replacements
  • A participation budget that lets citizens influence the course of future modernizations

Here, it’s easy to see how Warsaw is going for the quick wins first. Painting a new bike lane is fast and cheap. E-bikes are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. A single LED bulb costs a few zlotys, but the cumulative impact of replacing incandescent bulbs through an entire city results in a massive reduction of the carbon footprint.

All of this isn’t to say that Warsaw isn’t planning more ambitious works. Over the next few years, the city plans to fully replace its diesel busses with electric city vehicles, create an urban air quality index using IoT devices, and create a new urban living lab. By starting small, however, the city can validate that its choices are popular and that its planning process is working.

Smart Cities Start with Smart Waste Management

For less developed countries, smart city projects are a means to attract foreign investment, enrich the lives of their residents, and create a more beautiful and efficient community in which to live. For all of these reasons and more, intelligent waste management is an excellent pilot project that helps form one of the foundational elements of emerging smart cities.

First, cities across Eastern Europe frequently receive attention for their respective problems with municipal sanitation. It stands to reason that implementing smart waste management solutions is of critical importance. Remediating an association with overflowing waste bins and piles of trash bags means immediately making the city a nicer place to live, a more enjoyable site for tourism, and a more attractive destination for investment dollars. 

Secondly, smart waste management serves more than just one purpose:

  • It cuts down on traffic by allowing municipalities to send out trucks only to empty full bins, and during times when there are fewer vehicles on the road.
  • For the same reason, it helps cut carbon emissions by calculating the shortest optimal routes for trucks to travel, minimizing total travel time and fuel consumption.
  • Smart waste management also helps cities collect data on sites that need more frequent pickups or additional bins.

Finally, these solutions work well as a pilot smart city project because they accomplish a lot without requiring a great deal of upfront change or capital expenditures. With Nordsense, the fundamental unit of smart waste management is an IoT-networked sensor that is easily equipped to existing waste containers.  Our optical sensor is furnished with a 256-pixel resolution that enables it to produce 3D depth maps of a bin’s content. This dramatically increases the accuracy of the sensor as it provides multiple reference points, rendering false positives a thing of the past. 

Unlike other waste management tools, Nordsense doesn’t require municipalities to spend time and money replacing existing bins. Our sensors fit existing bins of all sizes, from campus receptacles to large dumpsters, and can easily be installed in one minute. Nordsense doesn’t require you to replace waste haulers with new trucks, but nonetheless reduces their carbon footprints. 

The value and benefits of smart waste management are self-evident. But what’s equally exciting is that impact of this magnitude is achieved without the need to rip and replace your existing waste management infrastructure.

Develop Your Smart City with Smart Waste Management from Nordsense

Becoming a smart city isn’t the sole domain of a wealthy metropolis. Second and third-world countries can – and do create municipalities every bit as smart as those in more developed nations. By adding intelligence to your infrastructure, you create a force multiplier, generating economic and social benefits that far outweigh the cost.

Contact Nordsense today and learn how your city can become smarter, sooner.Nordsense harnesses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to track and diagnose daily waste management workloads, uncovering trends and inefficiencies with real-time insights on ideal container sizes and placements to prevent bins from overflowing, and to course-correct routes and schedules to optimize pick-up efficiency. Unlike offerings that require customers to purchase or rent expensive ‘smart bins’, Nordsense IoT-enabled sensors fit existing bins and containers of all sizes, from small city bins to large underground containers, saving both time and money. Visit to learn more.

Travis Sales, Nordsense

Photo by zibik on Unsplash