'Smart Garbage' Startup Cuts City Trash Costs by 40 Percent

The Internet of Things cloud solution by Compology uses sensors that detect garbage levels in city trash bins and notifies waste removal trucks when it’s time to collect.

by / April 11, 2016
Compology's new sensor technology offers analytics and driver routing for waste management officials. Flicky/Lili Vieira de Carvalho

The amount of garbage in cities is growing. Global trash production has risen to more than 3.5 million tons, according to the World Bank, which estimates that will hit the 6 million mark by 2025. With loads of trash increasing, disposal costs also are rising — the World Bank further predicts that by 2025, global garbage collection expenses will skyrocket by 83 percent, from $205 billion a year in 2010 to $375 billion by 2025. The predicament is concerning for cities, especially in developing countries where budgets are already tight.

But one startup hopes to help. San Francisco-based Compology, co-founded by entrepreneurs Ben Chehebar and Jason Gates in 2012, claims it can reduce waste collection costs by as much as 40 percent with its Internet of Things (IoT) cloud solution. The company has created sensors that detect garbage levels in city trash bins and notify waste removal trucks when it’s time to collect. Dubbed WasteOS, the operating system behind the sensors delivers real-time percentages of dumpster capacity and historical usage information of these city-owned assets.

The IoT startup is part of a national waste management trend in cities to balance costs through efficiency. BostonNew York and Pasadena, Calif., have already deployed a similar system for their smaller sidewalk trash bins, and citizens are starting to see IoT garbage receptacles — like the soon-to-be released Bruno Smart Can — on the market as well.

Compared to the competition, Compology's sensor is more affordable and long lasting, and fits with the large metal rollout dumpsters that often service apartment complexes or other sizable facilities. And perhaps its major advantage is that the sensor system’s installation doesn’t require bin replacement, unlike its competitors. City officials just need to attach the sensors to their trash receptacles, ensuring they're contained in their tough plastic housing to prevent damage. 

Compology was included in the recent GovTech100, a list of the 100 top companies that impact government services. Gates recently spoke with Government Technology, detailing the company’s upcoming plans.

Government Technology: How did you and fellow Co-Founder Ben Chehebar meet to create Compology?

Compology Co-founder Jason Gates: Ben [Chehebar] and I met in high school and collaborated on a number of projects over the years before starting Compology.

GT: From a tech perspective, how modernized is the waste management industry, and in what service areas does it need the most help?

Gates: The waste management industry has embraced the use of technology to provide incremental improvement to the same processes that have been used for the last 100 years.  By using rugged sensors and software, Compology enables new processes. 

GT: Where have you launched Compology and what government customers are using your cloud service?

Gates: We have customers across the U.S. Compology partners with waste haulers and governments to develop programs that work for all constituents.

GT: How can cities and government officials support IoT technologies and companies like Compology in terms of policy and infrastructure?

Gates: To date, governments have been tremendously supportive of technology innovation, but change has been slow. Going forward, the biggest support cities can provide to IoT companies like Compology is making decisions faster. Enabling IoT companies to implement and refine their products faster will benefit the companies and the end users.

GT: As a gov tech startup, what's the most difficult part about the procurement process, and how would you change it if you could?

Gates: The hardest part about the government procurement process for early stage companies is the timeline.

Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.