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Trash Talk: This Smart Bin Texts a Garbage Truck When Full Trash Talk: This Smart Bin Texts a Garbage Truck When Full

Trash Talk: This Smart Bin Texts a Garbage Truck When Full

by Adele Peters

May 5, 2013

Picture the typical garbage truck driving down a city street: it's old, pumping out black plumes of toxic diesel exhaust, rumbling loud enough that they can actually cause hearing damage, and holding up traffic. We need trash to get picked up. But there's a smarter way to do it. 

We first covered BigBelly trash compactors a few years ago—check out the video below. Since then they've expanded rapidly, with more than 18,000 of these special trash cans now in use around the world. The bins work differently than regular garbage or recycling cans in a couple of key ways. First, they work as mini-compactors, crushing the trash in place so it takes much longer to fill up. As the can gets full, it sends text messages to waste collectors. The whole thing runs on solar power. 

Armed with the knowledge of which cans need to be emptied, the waste company can change routes, going only where they're needed. In Philadelphia, where 900 traditional trash cans have been replaced with BigBelly bins, the city is saving $1 million every year on fuel and operational costs. Philly used to have 17 trash collections per week; now there are only three. That's a lot of avoided pollution, and a great way to solve a transportation problem—you don't necessarily have to redesign trucks or roads right away, just eliminate the need for the trucks to drive as much in the first place.

Join us for our Fix Your Street Challenge on the last Saturday of May. Click here to say you'll Do It and be sure to share stories of transportation innovation all month.

Photo via sf2301420max /

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