San Francisco plans to install AI-backed sensors in 1,000 city trash bins

Technology from Nordsense will be installed in city bins to monitor and analyze waste patterns for service optimization.
Nordsense AI trash bin

Nordsense, an AI-based waste management company, announced Friday it will install sensors in trash bins across San Francisco to optimize waste collection in the city.

“In most American cities, waste collection is handled in much the same way it was 100 years ago, with inflated costs, a substantial CO2 footprint and service that isn’t closely aligned with variable demand,” Anders Engdal, CEO of Nordsense, said in a press release.

In alignment with San Francisco’s 1997 Sustainable City Plan to “ensure a beautiful, healthy and prosperous city,” Nordsense secured a contract to modernize 1,000 trash bins in the city’s major commercial areas this spring with trash-monitoring technology and begin collecting real-time data on San Francisco’s waste patterns. Installation of the multi-point reference sensors is confirmed for Chinatown-North Beach, Downtown, Haight, Mission, 3rd Street Light Rail, Ocean-Sunset, and other locations that are still to be determined.

The trash sensors monitor container activity, keeping tabs on bin fullness, temperature, and fill rates by measuring 16 points within the container. The company’s software uses machine learning to analyze waste generation patterns and make data-based predictions that can help the city optimize waste collection services.


By measuring and analyzing the “topography” of the trash in each bin, the company says cities using its technology can mitigate container overflow, reduce collection frequency and guide bin placement. According to Nordsense, each sensor can monitor 16 points inside each bin.

San Francisco’s new contract with Nordsense follows a three-month pilot project in 2018 in which Nordsense installed 48 sensors across San Francisco to test the “smart” trash bin technology. The test saw an 80-percent reduction in the number of overflowing bins, a 64 percent drop in illegal dumpings, and a 66 percent drop in street cleaning.

“The pilot program showed us firsthand the benefits of the sensor technology to improve cleanliness on our city’s streets, and we’re looking forward to implementing the expansion,” said Mohammed Nuru, San Francisco’s public works director.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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