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Public Works planning to expand Smart Litter Can Sensor Program


The City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works (DPW) presented plans to expand the litter can monitoring program before City Council last week.

DPW has been studying litter can fill level monitoring sensors for the past several years to ensure the city can benefit from this new technology.

“The litter can monitoring system is a great example of how we can use technology and innovative solutions to deliver services to our residents more efficiently and effectively,” said Mayor William Peduto. “By monitoring the real-time fill status of receptacles, DPW can more regularly empty cans in our neighborhoods and free up labor hours for other high-priority tasks, thereby improving the level of service provided to residents.” 

In 2015, the city started a pilot implementation of 95 litter can sensors in the 5th Division. As a result of the pilot implementation, efficiency gains were identified and experienced from deploying collection resources only to cans that were in need of service based on the sensor data. Most notably, man-hours saved on litter collection activities can be repurposed to address other high priority tasks.

Based on the success of the pilot, the City of Pittsburgh issued a request for proposals (RFP) for Litter Can Services to streamline the process for servicing street litter cans located across the city. Victor Stanley, Inc., was selected as the winning vendor as a result of the RFP. A four-year agreement with Victor Stanley, Inc., totaling $274,062 is subject to approval by City Council.

“We are reducing the time it takes to service litter cans currently by about 30-50 per cent which would amount to at least 15,000 hours of staff time that could be redeployed to other work within the department,” said DPW Director Mike Gable. “Given that the average hourly wage and benefits for employees currently performing this work is valued at approximately $30, the city would initially save nearly $450,000 worth of staff time. As the program expands, we expect these values to increase to our benefit.”

The litter can monitoring program is made up of hardware and software components. Approximately 1,281 litter cans with fill sensors will be deployed city-wide over the next year. Each sensor costs $4.90 per month for the monitoring fee and the subscription to the web based management software. Based on the current number of litter cans in DPW’s inventory, the annual monitoring fees will be $75,322.

In addition to improvements in operational efficiency and service, the monitoring software allows DPW to collect data to measure the performance of receptacles throughout the city. The data collected will lead to location optimization, consistent collections and inventory improvements.


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