Argonaut – Trash Can On Campus Sensors Fight Costs And Benefit The Environment


Bin sensors have been installed on campus since February 2021 to revamp the way the University of Idaho handles waste and reduces emissions.

They became the second program in the United States to implement trash sensors on campus, allowing them to know when trash cans are full and influencing others to follow.

Project manager Jeremy Mutart, UI surplus and solid waste supervisor, was caught between a rock and a hard place when his two-person team lost a member with the end of his contract and his tight budget.

“One employee was temporary,” Mutart said. “I told him I had to fill your position, not fill your position.”

Mindful of a high budget, Mutart conducted a cost analysis to determine how much more it would cost them to hire someone compared to installing sensors.

“Hiring one person cost $ 120,000 for 3 years,” Mutart said. “The cost savings in themselves made sense. ”

Installing sensors would save around $ 100,000 as well as considerable time and energy with the ability to send topographic profiles and alerts when cans need to be emptied, instead of having to send a worker to check.

“They would hit every box on campus in four to six hours,” Mutart said. “Now I’m looking at how many boxes I have to make. At eight o’clock on average, I was done in an hour and a half.

56 concrete bins marked with the UI logo on campus have been installed. Three sensors will be added to the cans in the arena and others will be installed in dumpsters.

According to Olivia Wiebe, sustainability coordinator for the Sustainability Center, the facility serves a 10-year-old climate action plan that promised carbon neutrality by 2030 for the university.

Since 2010, the Sustainability Center and the UI as a whole have focused on alternative energy, reductions involving environmental protection, conservation and safety.

“When we look at a program that reduces the number of cars on the road and saves fuel resources, we are effectively reducing the emissions associated with garbage collection,” said Wiebe.

The reduction in vehicles has been incredibly beneficial in advancing the university’s environmental plan.

“The sensors made it possible not to drive the whole loop,” Wiebe said. “It’s an acupuncture approach, where you can identify” okay, this one needs to be picked up. “”

The facility also allows for the potential for retraining, although not currently available at the university, and alleviates the burden on employees.

Mutart played an important role in problem solving and project execution for environment, UI and solid waste.

“It’s really a win-win situation,” Wiebe said.

Michella Chowdhury can be contacted at [email protected]

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