In most well-run cities, there’s a trash can on nearly every street corner. Given their ubiquity, trash cans provide a unique opportunity for urban amenities. City workers already come to check on them regularly, and new trash receptacles are often fairly hardy metal boxes to which you can attach sensors, solar panels, and more. Here are four ways cities are using trash and recycle bins for more than just waste disposal:
1. Feeding dogs
A recycling bin from the Turkish company Pugedon helps feed hungry stray dogs. Every time someone puts in a bottle, it dispenses a little bit of kibble, funded by the money earned by recycling. It also has space where you can pour out your water bottle for the dogs to drink.
2. Urban bomb-proofing
Image Credit: Renew
In advance of the London Olympics in 2012, the city ordered 100 bomb-proof recycling bins at a cost of $25,000 pounds each (around $39,000 in today’s dollars). The ultra-strong cans are designed to withstand a blast should someone try to hide a bomb within them. They also come equipped with LCD displays that can show emergency alerts, transit information, and ads. For a short time, the recycling bins also collected data on electronic devices in the near vicinity, allowing the city to track people walking by—but that program was discontinued following public outcry.
3. WiFi hotspots
Image Credit: Bigbelly
The solar-powered trash can manufacturer Bigbelly is trying to bring WiFi to its waste disposal bins across New York City. WiFi hotspots within Bigbelly trash and recycling cans had enough bandwidth to support an entire small business in pilot testing. The company is searching for sponsors to help launch the project citywide.
4. Cryptocurrency mining
A smart trash can topper called eCan rewards people for cleaning up. It attaches to existing trash cans and can sense when a new item is thrown away. When it launched last summer, the high-tech trash can lid was designed to mine Emrals, a cryptocurrency invented by eCan’s founder, every time a user tossed trash in. The idea is to set up a system where these Emrals could be exchanged like money or used to get local discounts.