- The Los Angeles Board of Public Works (BPW) voted unanimously at its Dec. 1 meeting to approve a one-year pilot litter bin program with the South Korean company ECube Labs.
- This agreement will be free to the city with no future obligation. The pilot will include deployment of 5-10 Clean CUBE solar-powered compactor bins, 100 Clean CAP ultrasonic sensors for existing automated litter bins and full access to ECube's Clean Cities Network platform.
- Per the proposal, ECube will work the Bureau of Sanitation's (LASAN) Solid Resources Support Services Division on implementation, training, data analysis, and a final report to the BPW and Los Angeles City Council. LASAN's Clean Streets Operations team will make the collections.
Since Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Clean Streets Initiative in 2015, LASAN has been working to get public space litter and graffiti under control through more targeted strategies. This has mainly involved regular service of more than 3,400 public litter bins. Though according to the BPW proposal, "concerns over high operational costs and waste overflow frequencies continue to pose significant operational challenges."
Finding ways to develop more efficient routing based on fill levels has been a priority, leading LASAN to also conduct pilots with Bigbelly Solar and Enevo. Based on the city's proposal, and presentation at the meeting, a larger contract could be determined with one or more of the companies following this latest pilot.
If ECube's model of self-compacting litter bins sounds familiar, that may not be a coincidence. Last month, the company announced it had sued Bigbelly for patent infringement in California and the District of Columbia. This came shortly after Bigbelly filed its own patent infringement claim against ECube.
ECube claims to differentiate itself with fire detection technology and the option for customized exterior advertisements, among other features. Current applications of ECube's products can be found in D.C., Seoul, Dublin Airport and Hermosa Beach, CA.
So far, this growing market has appeared large enough for multiple players. Routing efficiency and emissions reduction are particularly big focus areas that have been played up by companies such as Compology. Though the fact that Los Angeles is carefully weighing its options may be a sign that cities are becoming more discerning in their choices. Philadelphia's controller raised concerns about Bigbelly's effectiveness earlier this year, before the city ended up signing a new contract anyway, and some waste professionals have questioned whether new approaches might be more effective for dense urban areas.