Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
My list

Author | Arantxa Herranz

A growing number of cities around the world are testing new smart waste management solutions with the aim of not only improving efficiency in terms of resources, but also the costs associated with keeping their streets clean. In some cases, automation is helping solve overcrowding problems that come with the accumulation of people and industries.

Seoul is the capital and largest city in South Korea, and the largest megacity in the developed world. A paradigmatic example of a smart city in constant development, it has five sites designated as UNESCO World Heritage and numerous shopping centres and cultural sites attracting large numbers of international tourists.

Korea Seoul-City CCB22

Around 10.29 million people live in the city, but if we take into account the entire metropolitan area, the population exceeds 25.6 million people. This is half of all the residents in the country. This makes it one of the cities with the highest population density in the world, almost twice that of New York City, four times higher than Los Angeles and eight times higher than the density of Rome.

Seoul also has a lively nightlife, with people staying out on the streets until after 10 at night. Litter bins, therefore, fill very quickly at all times of the day, making it difficult to keep the streets clean. In fact, the average amount of household waste generated per day is estimated to be 9,608 tonnes (and these are figures from 2016).

smart-bin-at-university

Few bins for so much litter

In addition to the high volume of waste generated in the city, Seoul had another significant problem in terms of treating this waste correctly: the number of public litter bins was insufficient for the population, which resulted in litter being strewn over the streets.

That is, those responsible for the city had to tackle the problem of having to collect litter frequently (between four and five waste collections per day was insufficient) and, the fact that the bins were often filled to the brim and overflowing. In addition to this, the waste collection planners did not know if the bins were actually full, while staff in Seoul had to deal with plastic bottles and paper cups that constantly accumulated on top of the recycling bins.

A local company, Ecube Labs, found the solution: an innovative litter bin that compacts its contents with a solar-powered compressor. The idea came about from imitating the behaviour of citizens: a litter bin never overflows in a household, since people press the litter down with their feet to reduce the volume. And if it works at home… Why not do the same with litter bins on the streets?

cubo

The possibilities of solar power

This technology allows the containers to store up to four times more waste before having to be emptied. Unlike the traditional method of collecting general waste and recycling materials, this method enables containers to be monitored thanks to technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things),which has enabled the city of Seoul to reduce waste collection costs by 83% and eliminate the problem of overflowing bins. It has also enabled the frequency of the waste collection tasks to be reduced by 66% and recycling rates have increased by 46%.

The bins function with solar power, therefore they can constantly compact the waste deposited in the bins. This increases the capacity by 700%, which in turn reduces waste collection by 85%. This guarantees that the bins will only be collected when they are full, thus requiring fewer collection visits and improving the flow of traffic within the city. The result is cleaner and safer streets.

Traffic reduction due to fewer collection visits helps reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions. And this, in turn, raises public awareness on the use of renewable energies. Furthermore, the recycling bins have led to a reduction in the production of food waste by around 10% in the capital. Some of the food waste containers also have a special function of converting organic waste into compost. This material is then used in community gardens or it is donated to farms.

Finally, thanks to the use of solar energy, these bins can charge themselves and notify the amount of litter they contain by electronic transmission; therefore, the status can be checked from a mobile phone.

Sensors for traditional bins

The most comprehensive version of these bins is expensive. Therefore, initially Seoul installed 85 smart bins in 2014 for general and recyclable waste in particularly populated areas of the city centre. As an intermediate measure, and so all the bins in the city’s streets did not have to be replaced, capacity sensors were installed on existing conventional bins.

Korea Jeonju CCB2

In just three months of using the smart waste management solutions, the city saw enormous improvements in its public sanitation. Since installing the clean bins, the amount of litter overflowing from the bins dropped and there was significantly less litter on the streets. Furthermore, as these bins can provide their status and fill-level information, the cleaning team was able to organise more efficient waste collection programmes and collect recycling bins before the bottles and glasses accumulated on top of the bins.

Seoul’s innovative waste management service is an example to be followed by other massified cities, proving that even the partial implementation of smart solutions, can bring about significant benefits.

Images | Ecube Labs

Related content
Sustainable food: reality or fantasy?
Sustainable food: reality or fantasy?
The countries predicted to lose the most with climate change
The countries predicted to lose the most with climate change
Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities
Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities
A city of empty houses: How work from home, job losses hit Bengaluru's residential rentals
A city of empty houses: How work from home, job losses hit Bengaluru's residential rentals
Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it
Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it
How the power of IoT makes smart cities a reality
How the power of IoT makes smart cities a reality
Heatwaves and urban heat islands: what are cities to do?
Heatwaves and urban heat islands: what are cities to do?
Smart Forest City Cancun: a futuristic orchard in the middle of the Riviera Maya
Smart Forest City Cancun: a futuristic orchard in the middle of the Riviera Maya
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
Solar cities: an opportunity not to be missed
Solar cities: an opportunity not to be missed
Success story: Singapore’s transformation into a garden city
Success story: Singapore’s transformation into a garden city
Amsterdam launches a modular urban lighting system
Amsterdam launches a modular urban lighting system
Copenhagen’s green future is built on the rooftops
Copenhagen’s green future is built on the rooftops
How does a city face the pandemic - Infographic
How does a city face the pandemic - Infographic
Geothermal energy: a simple solution for making urban heat more sustainable
Geothermal energy: a simple solution for making urban heat more sustainable
Climathon, cities get together to tackle the climate emergency
Climathon, cities get together to tackle the climate emergency
Smart Cube: Cube4Services
Smart Cube: Cube4Services
BSI Cleaning: Innovative cleaning and disinfection solutions
BSI Cleaning: Innovative cleaning and disinfection solutions
Wave by AGC: WAVEATTOCH, transparent glass antenna for outdoor network densification
Wave by AGC: WAVEATTOCH, transparent glass antenna for outdoor network densification
Cloudics: Solutions for fueling stations that can be operated from the cloud-based web manager, by Astro Baltics
Cloudics: Solutions for fueling stations that can be operated from the cloud-based web manager, by Astro Baltics
BuildWind: Pedestrian wind comfort and safety assessment
BuildWind: Pedestrian wind comfort and safety assessment
Lumency: Smart Building and Environmental Monitoring
Lumency: Smart Building and Environmental Monitoring
Green deal solutions Demo day
Green deal solutions Demo day
5G Smart Environmental Protection: Water at its best
5G Smart Environmental Protection: Water at its best
Unicard: Multimodal transport made easy
Unicard: Multimodal transport made easy
Passenger: Enabling transport innovation
Passenger: Enabling transport innovation
Siemens eMobility: Energizing the electromobile world
Siemens eMobility: Energizing the electromobile world
Clever Bins: Enhancing recycling management
Clever Bins: Enhancing recycling management
Cyclomedia: Streets speak out smart
Cyclomedia: Streets speak out smart
DEFLEXIO: Anticipating the good, the bad and the ugly
DEFLEXIO: Anticipating the good, the bad and the ugly
Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
The electricity challenge: Will we be able to generate all the energy we need?
The electricity challenge: Will we be able to generate all the energy we need?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Urban agriculture: how to go from being a hobby to feeding cities
Urban agriculture: how to go from being a hobby to feeding cities
Urban forests: these cities are naturalising their environment
Urban forests: these cities are naturalising their environment
Urban metabolism, when cities are integrated into the natural environment
Urban metabolism, when cities are integrated into the natural environment
What is environmental racism and how can we prevent it in cities?
What is environmental racism and how can we prevent it in cities?
Tokyo is facing the challenge of organising the most sustainable Olympic Games
Tokyo is facing the challenge of organising the most sustainable Olympic Games
Welcome to the post-diesel era. And now what?
Welcome to the post-diesel era. And now what?
The Chinese dilemma of waste-to-energy plants
The Chinese dilemma of waste-to-energy plants
The Business Case for Climate Neutral Cities – the Mission of our time
The Business Case for Climate Neutral Cities – the Mission of our time
Smart Waste, a key pillar for sustainable Open Cities
Smart Waste, a key pillar for sustainable Open Cities
Smart Piers Cities
Smart Piers Cities
Cities deserve a stakeholder journey to support and ensure their decarbonization
Cities deserve a stakeholder journey to support and ensure their decarbonization
Enable connectivity for Smart and Sustainable Buildings
Enable connectivity for Smart and Sustainable Buildings
Portugal Smart Nation: the tale of how a nation can become global
Portugal Smart Nation: the tale of how a nation can become global
CITYSYNERGY: A holistic view into the heart of the city
CITYSYNERGY: A holistic view into the heart of the city
Octar Technologies: Safe disinfection for a better life
Octar Technologies: Safe disinfection for a better life
How companies and innovators can work together to build smart and sustainable cities
How companies and innovators can work together to build smart and sustainable cities
Recommended profiles for you
Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
KS
Kaisa Sibelius
Forum Virium Helsinki Oy
Coordinator and project manager of AI4Cities PCP project. https://ai4cities.eu
PG
Pat Gayer
SELC
CEO
Juan Ibanez
Juan Ibanez
Trilliant
VP Sales Latin America
ÖÖ
Özge Önenli
ENGIE
BtoT Coordinator
Roy Osinga
Roy Osinga
Flower Turbines
Director EU for Flower Turbines urban wind turbines (1, 3, 6m) and on and off grid charging products
ff
fgh fgh
fsfdf
ghm
Binli Xiao
Binli Xiao
Master of Energy for Smart Cities
KU Leuven
FS
Farhaan Saikalgar
Student
..
Maria Rosela Ricamara
Maria Rosela Ricamara
City Government of Makati
Planning Officer II
KF
Karine Frafjord
Nordic Edge
Communications manager
Anna Lluís Gavaldà
Anna Lluís Gavaldà
Símbiosy
Consultant in symbiosis projectes in Símbiosy
Pitak Tiranakul
Pitak Tiranakul
KBO Earth organization
Vice President
MC
Martin Cisneros
UPC
Manager
Teresa Simas
Teresa Simas
KEME Energy
Business development and operations related to renewable energy communities development
Antonia Focke
Antonia Focke
Breeze Technologies
Business Development
Fernando Riv
Fernando Riv
Ug
Ceo
Rosa  Marin Cano
Rosa Marin Cano
GLOBAL ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES
Soy la asistente administrativa y de proyectos en Getcol; acompaño , facilito, gestiono y verifico
CF
Carsten Fosvang
Andel Holding A/S
Corporate business development
Anaisa Dones
Anaisa Dones
Cetys University
Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering
Silvia Brandi
Silvia Brandi
Atlas of the Future
Director

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$