Rubbish begone: One Australian city's innovative approach to taking out the trash

I remember the first time I experienced the benefits of an underground waste system, in Barcelona Spain. The public space I was in was dominated by people, and not cars – and the fully integrated waste system was almost invisible. It was literally ‘rubbish begone’. It put this important municipal service out of public eye, and allowed the public spaces to be centred around what was important – architecture, retail and bumping into others.

There are a lot of critics of underground waste systems, but the benefits are clear. It essentially removes the waste handling process from the urban environment, and ensures that the public realm remains litter free. It provides for waste separation like no other, and saves on operation and maintenance costs. This is certainly a leadership position Sunshine Coast is taking, and signals to the marketplace that the Council is an innovator with a strategic vision to invest now, for the future. — Adam Beck


As we mentioned in an earlier story, the Sunshine Coast city of Maroochydore is undertaking a massive city centre regeneration project that includes new construction, a digital makeover and a variety of field trials (including a fibre-optic network, smart streetlights and poles).

While the city is installing sensor-equipped trash bins that notify waste management operators when they need to be emptied, it also began work on an entirely different system that eliminates the need for the bins to be emptied. Excavation began earlier this week to lay underground vacuum pipes for an automated waste collection system. The project is a collaboration between South Korean firm Envac, the Sunshine Coast Council, SunCentral and lead contractor Shadforths.

The 6.5km system is being installed at commercial buildings and apartments, and also will be installed in stages over the next 10 years in public areas, parks and plazas, according to a Sunshine Coast Council news release. "It's exciting to see an innovative, nation-first project like this taking shape on the Sunshine Coast," said Acting Mayor Tim Dwyer. "Workers and residents in the new CBD will never have to walk past rows of wheelie bins or be woken early by noisy trucks.

"The system will also benefit our environment and help make the Sunshine Coast Australia's most sustainable region by increasing recycling rates, as has occurred in systems installed overseas."

Additional benefits include eliminating odours and trash bin overflows – and savings because the need for street cleaning will be reduced.

The system can be installed because it is being built on an undeveloped greenfield location in the existing urban area, explained Director of Infrastructure Services Andrew Ryan.

"Automated underground waste collection is just one of the ways in which the new Maroochydore CBD will be among the most technologically advanced in Australia," Ryan said.

Doug Peeples is a writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartcitiesanz on Twitter.