How Santander, Spain is using sensors to tackle waste

Santander, the capital of Spain’s autonomous region on the northern coast of Spain, was once home to a royal summer residence and still seeks to showcase this “aristocratic atmosphere” while providing visitors and citizens with another view: waste-free streets. As the city looked to reinvent itself at the beginning of the 19th century, Santander is once again looking to modernise itself today with smart waste management practices. Below, we’ll take a look at how this summer tourist destination is getting savvy when it comes to strengthening its waste collection services, making it a more liveable city and inspiring leader for the rest of Spain to follow.-Bruno De Man 


A city-wide classroom for waste management

During the summer months, Santander receives 400,000 tourists, 36.2 percent of the annual amount. One way the city strives to minimise waste and encourage recycling is by collecting waste daily from specific bins divided by types, such as paper/cardboard, glass, plastics and residual waste. The city also ups its workforce during the summer, increasing the number of work shifts and honing in on certain routes, such as the resort-heavy beach area of Sardinero. The city even turned its beaches into open-air environmental classrooms for a month last summer, hosting “urban waste” recycling workshops with children.

Recycling workshops are just one way the city is educating its citizens on the importance of waste reduction. Santander is one of 11 pilot cities (which includes spots like Copenhagen and Dubrovnik) that have come together to act as urban laboratories as part of the URBAN WASTE project. One of the highlights of this forward-thinking plan is sensor technology. Santander currently has 6,000 IoT-connected devices that use sensors, RFID and near-field communication tags to track waste management, relaying the locations, stasis and waste levels of rubbish bins and containers to the city in real time.

Through this new system, the city can use GPS/GPRS tracking to help optimise the route for its fleet, which also features environmental sensors that compile information about air quality, temperature and humidity. This information is then fed into the “Ciudad Santander” app, which citizens and visitors can access for information about bulk waste pickup, schedules and recycling services. They can also use this app as a way to correspond directly with the Santander City Council, reporting events, uploading photos and posting comments, each of which will be handled by the relevant municipality service. With projects like pop-up workshops and city-wide apps, Santander is transforming into the kind of smart city that’s not only forward-thinking, it’s also keeping the people top-of-mind when developing services that will help everyone in the long run.