Depending on their service offerings, most waste haulers today monitor container fullness levels for a few main reasons: right-sizing pick-up schedules, meeting contract requirements for content audits, optimizing routing or turning containers faster. Typically, haulers have monitored fullness using manual methods such as hiring dedicated operations employees to audit containers, tasking drivers to monitor and report, or having customers provide fullness feedback. Unfortunately, these methods are time consuming, costly and regularly result in inaccurate, outdated data that limits the ways that information can be effectively used to operate more efficiently and enhance service for customers.

The good news? Thanks to recent advancements in technology, highly accurate and automated container volume fullness monitoring sensors are now available and affordable. The two leading technology choices are ultrasonic (sonar) or image-based sensors.

Customer testimonial on his experience using both image-based and ultrasonic sensors and why image-based wins.
Compology’s image-based sensor mounted to a front-load container.

How It Works: An ultrasonic sensor send a high-frequency sound wave into the container and measures how long it takes for the echo of the sound to bounce back. This allows it to determine the amount of waste within the limited range of the sound wave.

Container Compatibility: Smaller Front-Loads and Totes
Ultrasonic sensors can provide accurate container fullness percentages when used in totes/carts or smaller front-load waste containers. However, when it comes to larger front-load and roll-off containers, the limited range of the sound wave can restrict the sensor’s ability to accurately measure fill-levels depending on how and where the waste has piled up within the container (see illustration below). With potentially questionable accuracy readings, not having a way to visually confirm a container’s fullness also becomes a larger issue.

Providers: There are multiple providers for ultrasonic waste container monitoring sensors (i.e. Enevo, Smartbin and others).

With an uneven waste distribution, ultrasonic sensors could calculate waste volume inaccurately.
Image Based

How It Works: Image-based sensors take photos of the container interior with a wide-angle camera. Images are sent directly to the cloud where they’re automatically analyzed through software to determine container fullness. The hauler will be able to see the latest fullness percentage and also view all of the captured images through a web-based dashboard.

Progression of Compology sensor images of a roll-off container.

Container Compatibility: Front-Load and Roll-Off   The image-based sensor provides highly accurate fullness percentages in front-load containers and is the only viable option for roll-off containers. Where ultrasonic sensors fall short, image-based sensors stand out by measuring fullness based on the entire contents of the container and also by providing haulers with actual container images that allow for fill-level verification. In the rare chance a camera gets partially blocked, haulers can simply check the footage to see what’s really happening in their container.

Providers: Compology is the only provider of image-based waste container monitoring sensors. The image-based technology is very difficult to replicate and its accuracy continues to improve with each additional image taken

(see compology listed as one of the most innovative waste technology companies)

A demo of Compology’s dashboard showing container information, fullness percentage and images.
The Cost

The cost of implementing ultrasonic or image-based systems are comparable. When working with any provider, the number of sensors and contract terms will be factors when setting a price. It’s also important to be aware of any hidden or additional costs such as installation, training, or ongoing maintenance. Often these supporting responsibilities fall on the hauler, but some providers, like Compology, include them at no additional charge.

The Benefits for Haulers

Roll-Off (Sensor Compatibility: Compology ONLY)

Note: Roll-off benefits ultimately help haulers streamline operations to reduce spending as well as enhance customer relationships to generate additional profit.

  1. Turn containers faster. On average it takes 3 days for a roll-off container to fill up and 9 days for a customer to call it in for service. Compology has a system that notifies customers when containers are full and allows them to order service from their smartphone, cutting down the time to turn each container.
    (Best for: C&D, Industrial, MSW)
  2. Optimize collection times. Whether you want to service a container when it’s nearly full or when it’s less full, the ability to know the fullness percentage allows you to make the right decision for your business.
    (Best for: C&D, Industrial, MSW, Scrap Metal)
  3. Anticipate haul schedules. Eliminate same-day hauls, level-load your drivers schedules and reduce incoming service calls. Fullness enables you to decide which work you can push out to the next day based on urgency.
    (Best for: C&D, Industrial, MSW, Scrap Metal)

Front-Load (Sensor Compatibility: Compology or Ultrasonic)

Note: The value of fullness data can vary depending on the structure of a front-load service contract.

  1. Right-size service and automate content audits. Use data to guide conversations with customers on how to adjust their collection service levels up or down depending on how their business changes, meet contract obligations for audits using a container’s image history instead of sending people out, and provide waste production reporting.
    (Best for: MSW, Recycling, Organics)
  2. Dynamically route collection trucks. Run different routes daily based on actual container fullness to reduce collection costs by up to 40%. This doesn’t work in all contract structures, but the technology has proven its effectiveness and is growing in popularity.
    (Best for: Firm/fixed rate contracts, Recycling, Organics, Textiles)

Additional Compology Image-based Benefits: Front-Load or Roll-Off

  1. Verify fullness remotely: Think the fullness reading is wrong? Just check the images to verify if there is a faulty read or if a pick-up is necessary.
  2. Resolve customer discrepancies quickly: View and share images from a specific location or point in time with customers to help verify contamination or service needs.
  3. Improve service scheduling experience for customers: Provide customers with full container images to prompt quicker service scheduling.
Written By

Jason Gates - CEO - Compology


We have flexible pricing, installation, and support packages to meet your container monitoring needs.