Ultrasonic Bin Level Sensing Program

Published: 1 July 2019

Project information

  • Name: Binasys Smart Waste Program
  • Summary: Install bin sensor technology into participating council infrastructure to provide a live demand profile of each public litter bin
  • Lead: Connectsus Pty Ltd
  • Location: City of Yarra, City of Boroondara and Nillumbik Shire Council
  • Themes: Bin technology.

It’s 5pm on Saturday and bins across the City of Yarra are at breaking point. An urgent message is received back at HQ: ‘Empty me, I’m overflowing!’

Thirty lucky bins across the City of Yarra, Nillumbik Shire and City of Boroondara are sending real time usage data back to their respective councils and waste contractors, thanks to the Binasys project, funded by Sustainability Victoria.

“Bin sensors are great for preventing bin overflow,” explained Nathan Smith, Director and Project Manager at Connectsus. “Not only do they tell waste contractors when to empty bins, they give long-term usage patterns. So, we can schedule pick-ups at peak times rather than sending trucks out when the bins are still half empty. We can move underused bins to more prominent spots. We can see when illegal dumping might be happening.

“First we installed and calibrated the sensors, then taught council staff how to use the Clean City Network (CCN) software to monitor the bins. We generated reports to pinpoint weekly trends and bin overflow. We also revisited sites to rectify any technical issues such as misreads or vandalism and to investigate suspected illegal dumping.”

Overcoming hurdles

“The CCN software exports data as a CSV file and we found it difficult to create meaningful reports for the councils,” said Nathan. “We ended up making manual reports in JPEG. We are looking into buying better access to the CCN software to resolve this.”

Above: CSV data export function

“We had some reception dropouts in Boroondara and Nillumbik. We lowered the frequency of data transmission to once every hour to alleviate this problem. This also helped extend the battery life, as the devices were initially calibrated to transmit data every 20 minutes, which degrades the battery fairly quickly. We may need to replace these batteries soon.

“Some sensors turned themselves off, but overall the sensors worked extremely well, giving us consistent, reliable data.

“We were also worried initially about how to install the sensors in stainless steel bins, but advice from a metal worker made this an easy job.”

Needing a personalised approach

One of the interesting aspects of this project was adapting to the different approach of each council towards reducing litter and waste and making collection services more efficient.

“We had to adapt our approach, depending on each council’s focus. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. For example, Nillumbik is heavily focused on illegal dumping and operates its own fleet of garbage trucks. We had an interesting result in Nillumbik, where irregular data alerted us to semi-consistent illegal dumping of retail waste at three sites. Our investigation showed undelivered newspapers from a news round were being dumped every Sunday between 3 and 5am.”

Above: Newspapers dumped at Nillumbik every Sunday between 3 and 5am

“Whereas the City of Yarra uses an external waste collector. We did experience some pushback from them. In future, I would recommend bringing any external contractors into the project team at the start. We also discovered from the sensor data that bins were not being serviced once a day, in breach of their service agreement. As a result, Yarra Council amended the waste contract and lowered their service fees.”

“This project has moved along really well. The data gave councils more power to deal with street bin litter overflow, litter hotspots and illegal dumping. I hope that it will provide lasting results to resolve these issues in the future.”

More information

Contact Nathan Smith, Director and Project Manager at Connectsus on 0431 469 974 or nathan.smith.connectsus@gmail.com.