City Dispatching New DPW Crews to Neighborhood Business Districts

PITTSBURGH, PA (October 13, 2020) Using smart garbage cans with sensors, the Department of Public Works is both expanding garbage pick-up service in neighborhood business districts while saving money by more efficiently deploying department resources. 

Pittsburgh is the first city in the country to deploy the cans citywide, for a total of 1,300 cans across city neighborhoods. (Other cities typically focus them in only certain business districts). First deployed in 2017 the cans send information to DPW indicating when they are full, allowing the department to dispatch pick-up crews only to those receptacles in need of service. 

The moves follow other technological upgrades from DPW and the Department of Innovation and Performance related to the city’s Snow Plow tracker that are saving the City $1 million annually in road salt costs. 

“Cutting-edge work by officials at Public Works are providing better services and saving taxpayer money at the same time. These are simple and smart changes that are a model to other cities nationwide,” Mayor William Peduto said. 

Previous to the adoption of the smart cans DPW could have up to 24 people in a given day (across all three shifts) emptying street garbage cans. The department is now deploying six dedicated workers, which will free up the other 18 people to be reassigned to other tasks such as pothole patching, weed removal and so on. 

The new Sensored Litter Receptacle Crews will work for the first time on weekends, and on Mondays will target cleanup of high-impact sites such as the North Shore, East Carson Street and Lawrenceville. 

"I’m excited to implement the first ever crew dedicated to using technology that will make us more efficient and ensure our city is cleaner seven days a week," DPW foreman Mike Boyd said. 

Following real-time data sent by the smart cans to DPW, one crew will cover the 2nd and 3rd Divisions covering half the sensored cans in the city, while another crew will run the remaining routes of 1st, 4th and 5th Divisions covering the other half. A third crew will overlap on Mondays to clear cans that typically get high use over the weekends. 

Data collected during the roll-out of the cans shows that on any given day only 13% of the city’s cans reached the 90% full threshold for emptying. Before the smart cans were deployed roughly 1,130 cans were emptied each day whether they were full or not — now the sensors show only about 90 cans are in need of service daily.  

By more efficiently deploying pick-up staff DPW is expected to cut personnel costs for receptacle cleanup by at least half, while also expanding service.  

The change is also good for the climate, as the elimination of un-needed pickup routes decreases the usage of vehicles and fuel. 



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Timothy McNulty
Communications Director
Mayor's Office