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Pittsburgh might buy 'smart' garbage cans that signal when they're full

| Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 11:45 p.m.
Victor Stanley Co.
A Victor Stanley Co. trash can.

Pittsburgh would have “smart” garbage cans under a $580,000 proposal its public works director is pitching to City Council.

Director Mike Gable wants to buy 400 to 500 cans that feature sensors to gauge garbage volume and send a wireless signal when they're full.

He estimates the cost for the cans and computer equipment at $580,000, but said the smart cans would greatly cut down on hours public works crews spend checking cans to see if they're full. The city has about 1,200 cans situated in public places.

“That's something we do every single day,” Gable said. “We spend around 100,000 hours a year emptying rubbish cans. That in a nutshell is 50 employees. We're estimating we're going to be able to reduce our activity there by 30 to 50 percent.”

Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday introduced legislation that would authorize the purchase of software and hardware for garbage can monitoring from Maryland-based Victor Stanley Co. Council is expected to schedule an initial vote on the proposal next week. Gable hopes to have the cans in place by summer and expand the program in phases.

“It is crazy to send a truck to empty a garbage can ... if the can doesn't need to be emptied,” said Councilman Dan Gilman of Squirrel Hill. “This technology will free up personnel for other city tasks and save on the wear and tear of city vehicles.”

Gable said public works crews would go directly to cans that are full instead of traveling routes and checking every one. The time savings would free them up for other work such as clearing city lots, sweeping streets and pruning trees, he said.

The city would be able to locate cans in areas where they're most needed based on sensor data, Gable said. He said the city might paste stickers on the cans identifying their neighborhood location, but Mayor Bill Peduto's name won't appear on them.

One of Peduto's first acts upon taking office in 2014 was issuing an order banning city politicians from embossing their names on city property for political purposes. Former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration in 2009 purchased 252 steel trash cans at $1,000 apiece that prominently displayed his name.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or

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