Trash collection isn’t easy, but it is getting smarter. To date, the City of Los Angeles has added more than 330 high-tech Bigbelly garbage cans to its arsenal. The system, which includes bins with Wi-Fi capability—and, in some cases, solar-powered trash compactors—has been showing up in cities around the world, improving efficiency and helping to make overflowing receptacles a thing of the past. Here’s the intel behind the design:
1. The Solar Panel
The panel on top fuels a 12-volt battery that powers the compactor. Though lack of sunshine isn’t usually a problem in L.A., the panel doesn’t need direct light to function; even a snowy Stockholm winter wouldn’t slow it down.
2. The Mouth
The 6-by-17-inch opening allows for waste to be easily deposited but prevents access to the already-compacted trash. To get rid of that In-N-Out wrapper, you’re going to have to employ a move more like mailing a letter than making a free throw.
3. The Console
The unit isn’t all belly—it has a brain, too. Sensors gauge the bin’s fullness, and trash collectors are alerted via text message or e-mail to remove the contents. The system aggregates data about all the cans in an area to improve collection efficiency. In the future, the cans could serve as public Wi-Fi hot spots.
4. The Trash
All those Starbucks runs add up. Los Angeles County disposed of approximately 9 million tons of trash in 2012—an average of 4.7 pounds per person per day.
5. The Trash Bag
Liner bags—supplied by WasteZero and made of recycled materials—prevent the interior from getting too gross.
6. The Compactor
The automated steel device compresses the contents, enabling pick-ups to be made less frequently, which saves time and money. The unit holds about five times what fits in a typical trash can. For areas with less foot traffic, there’s the Smartbelly model, which has the sensors but not the compactor.
7. The Exterior
Made of sheet metal with heavy-duty plastic side panels, Bigbelly is weatherized and scratch resistant. Trash collectors empty the bin by unlocking the front door with a master key.