Case studies

A data-driven approach towards the problem of illegal dumping of trash, Ghent (Belgium)

Illegally dumped trash is one of the most annoying problems according to citizens. The size of the problem however used to be unknown. To get an idea of the size of the problem the city of Ghent decided to only clean up illegally dumped trash after it has been reported (which can be done here: Users can indicate the type of trash (bags, furniture, …) and add GPS coordinates or an address of the location. It is also possible to attach a picture with the broader environment, which is greatly encouraged by IVAGO (the company responsible for cleaning up the trash in Ghent). Every report (and the pictures) is investigated by IVAGO and a team is tasked to clean up the trash.

There is a lot of discussion about what the causes are of the illegal dumping of trash, and how the issue should be tackled. Up to now the discussion, the proposed solutions and the measures that are being taken are all based on theory, intuition and vision. However, a lot of data is available that can be employed to nourish decision making. The city of Ghent will explore which data can be useful for decision making, how it can be gathered and how it can be applied for data driven decision making.

A dashboard has been developed that shows information about the notifications of illegally dumped trash. The notifications have been projected on the map of Ghent, and trends about their location, the number of notifications and the type of illegally dumped trash can be deducted.


Challenges encountered:

A lot of data can be employed, but this data is distributed throughout the public administration and often locked away in applications. Gathering the data, identifying where the data is stored and making it available in a structured way for everyone who has the right to access it can access it proves to be challenging.

A data driven policy making approach towards the problem of illegally dumped garbage implies the collaboration between several offices within the city administration, the local police and IVAGO (the external company responsible for cleaning up the trash in Ghent).


The city of Ghent

  • Cel Regie Netheid – Groendienst
  • Juridische dienst
  • Dienst Data en Informatie
  • Politie Gent
  • Kabinet openbare netheid

Actions steps:

  • Identify all possible data sources within the city
  • Clean up data and get it ready for analysis
  • Perform analysis
  • Develop dashboard for reports and easy visualization and assessment of trends and tendencies

Lessons learned:

  • An organization-wide plan for data storage, applications and how they handle data is necessary
  • Regular meetings with all the stakeholders are necessary to know what the goal is, what the questions are

Outcome impact:

Since the pilot is still in the starting phase, it is to early to assess the outcome and its impact

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