Jan 10 2017

Future-proofing Asian cities the smart way

Future Ready Singapore

Songdo, Korea: Not a garbage truck in sight

For most urban residents, the unpleasant whiff of a passing garbage truck is part and parcel of city living. But visitors to Songdo International Business District in South Korea will quickly notice that there are no waste collection vehicles plying the streets.

This is because the smart city — a 600-hectare expanse of urban area built from scratch on reclaimed land as a private real estate development project — has a waste collection system using pneumatic tubes. Any trash that is thrown into a bin at home or on the street is transported directly to a central sorting and disposal facility, where it is recycled or incinerated.

Thanks to this efficient and convenient waste collection system — it automatically sorts the waste that enters the facility, and reportedly needs just seven to operate — Songdo expects to recycle 76 per cent of its waste by 2020.

Seoul, in comparison, recycled about 46 per cent of its waste in 2013 and aims to raise this figure to 66 per cent by 2030.

Songdo’s pneumatic, automated waste management infrastructure is powered by a high-speed data network infrastructure and it is just one of the many features that have earned the US$40 billion development the accolade of the smartest city in the world, as well as one of the most sustainable.

Other smart features in this city — which was developed as a joint venture between the City of Incheon, New-York based developer Gale International, Korean steel multinational POSCO, and Morgan Stanley Real Estate — include numerous charging stations for electric vehicles, sensor-based traffic control services, and city-wide security surveillance to keep citizens safe.

The US$40 billion project is set to be complete by 2020, and accommodate 65,000 people by then. Although the city is still under construction, it is already habitable. While only 40,000 residents live in Songdo today, it is already home to about 2,600 businesses as well as several United Nations agencies. When it is completed in 2020, Songdo International Business District expects to house 65,000 people.