Afula’s ‘smart garbage cans’ send out distress signal when full

The northern city is the first one in Israel to apply new tech to an age-old problem

An Afula 'smart garbage can' (Afula Municipality)
An Afula 'smart garbage can' (Afula Municipality)

In most cities, the chances of coming across an overflowing public garbage receptacle depends on a few factors. Trash collection takes place on specific days, and if too much garbage is dumped into those receptacles in between, overflow is likely – and that’s too bad.

But trash overflow is a problem residents of the northern Israeli town of Afula may never experience again – as long as the batteries in the transmitters installed in the town’s new “smart garbage cans” hold out.

About 150 of the city’s 600 public trash receptacles have been outfitted with an electronic device that includes a sensor that determines how full the can is. Information about the “trash situation” in a can is transmitted several times a day to the municipality’s trash management offices, where a real-time map is generated showing how full cans are. The data is crunched and mapped, alerting collectors as to which cans need to be emptied first.

The smart cans are actually a part of an overall municipal upgrade to the city’s garbage collection system. The cans – which serve to collect household trash – were recently placed “underground,” further preventing messy overflows. The majority of the cans are in concrete enclosures below ground, with only a small part peeping over the sidewalk. The city says this system prevents garbage “spills” as cans can no longer be knocked over, spewing their contents on the street.

The system is in use in numerous cities abroad, such as New York and Barcelona, and is being seen as a pilot program not just for Afula but for many other cities in Israel coping with too much trash.

Says Mayor Yitzhak Meron, “Afula is rapidly turning into an advanced smart city, both in the level of services we provide and the quality of that service.”

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