Refuse revolution: 4 companies transforming the trash bin
Waste basket. Rubbish bin. Trash barrel. No matter what you call it, the typical garbage receptacle has acted as a mundane necessity in the everyday life of communities across the globe. From personal bins to corporate dumpsters, these containers have typically offered a uniform functionality: to collect trash for disposal.
Today, many companies are making efforts to amp up the simple trash can with advanced technology and design, allowing a refuse container to do more than ever imagined.
Here are four companies that explained to Waste Dive how they are leading the trash can revolution:
For the past 12 years, Bigbelly has been a leader in waste container innovation. The Needham, MA-based company has installed over 30,000 trash and recycling containers across the globe that use solar power to compact garbage.
"It all started back many years ago with the idea of having a smarter way to deal with trash," said Bigbelly Vice President of Marketing Leila Dillon. She explained that creating a waste container with compaction has allowed a Bigbelly container to handle five times the amount of trash that another container of the same size would be able to hold. Additionally, Bigbelly offers cloud-based software that allows trash haulers to monitor the capacity of their bins, which Dillon says is the "cornerstone" of the company.
"You can simply click on the stations and the fullness summary, and you can also look at it from what we call a heat map so you really understand the capacity needs for your city or town," said Dillon.
The ability to customize bins in order to fit community needs is a unique element of Bigbelly's operations. The company lets the client decide location and capacity of each station, and offers to wrap the containers in advertisements or logos. Recently, Bigbelly even announced the installation of Wi-Fi hotspots in containers throughout New York City.
"We thought, 'Wow there’s a lot we could do with this.' The solar power makes us quite unique. We don’t need to plug in our station and we tend to have the most deployments in the highest traffic area," said Dillon. "So that was sort of the idea behind adding Wi-Fi or even adding things like data metrics and urban intelligence data."
Dillon said she hopes that Bigbelly will continue to bring more value and services underneath a "smart and connected self-powered station that sits on every street corner."
While waste containers have traditionally been designed for installation above ground, Greenville, SC-based Sutera USA is changing the rules with their semi-underground waste containers. The bins — which store waste in a concrete well five feet below the surface — help keep waste cool and reduce odors. Sutera Director of Business Development Bill Higgins said that the company hopes to replace dumpsters across the nation with these space-saving receptacles.
The bins — which cost about $5,500 and can hold up to 3,000 pounds of trash or recyclables — have a secure, sealed lid and are lined with a reusable PVC-coated polyester bag which contains all leachate. Once the bag is full, it is removed with a hook-lift garbage truck and emptied.
While the concept is fairly new in the United States, the underground bins are a norm in Canada, which has given Sutera USA the confidence for success in the American market. The company installed a prototype at their head office and bought a truck in order to demonstrate how the bins can be properly used. Companies that invest in Sutera's product will ultimately be responsible for their own hauling.
"Our plan right now is to develop the system in Greenville, South Carolina. Once we prove the concept works, the plan is to move it across the U.S. The plan is not for us to be in the hauling or service business," said Higgins. "It’s a new concept and getting everybody to understand the advantages of it is the key to getting it adopted."
Sometimes the beauty of a trash can is not necessarily its design, but the technology that lies within. Enevo, a Finnish tech company that has expanded to the American market, has developed a volume-based sensor that uses sonar technology to determine the fullness of a container. The sensor then sends information to a dashboard where the data is available for monitoring. The dashboard also suggests routes for trash haulers to better optimize fleet efficiency.
Christy Hurlburt, the western regional sales manager for Enevo, explained that the technology is not tied to a container, so it can be installed inside any container type.
"What’s nice about Enevo is we have an open API, so other platforms can use our data," said Hurlburt. "So it’s a very compatible system. We built the system to be flexible to work with anyone in the industry."
Enevo has traveled the globe to promote its software, and even made a stop at WASTECON last month, where Hurlburt explained how big data is creating smarter cities and smarter organizations.
"I am excited to be a part of not just the Enevo space, but this general transformation. I think we’re hitting a tipping point where the real application of a lot of these technologies that are out there...I think we’re really getting close to them — certainly not mainstream, but kind of that phase before the mainstream with the early adopters and having some real models that other cities can look to," said Brian Pompeo, the vice president of sales at Enevo. "I think that part of what we need to see is, how do we help cities that have some rigid standards? How do they think creatively about allowing some of these smaller companies to come in and really have significant effect in their day to day operations? To me, that’s exciting."
Three years ago, Jason Gates and Ben Chehebar co-founded Compology, a San Francisco-based software company that is also optimizing route efficiency for trash haulers. The company's "WasteOS" system allows commercial haulers to install hardware into front-load and roll-off containers — ranging anywhere from two cubic yards to 40 cubic yards — then evaluate the data using Compology software.
Similar to Enevo, Compology provides customers with a cloud-based dashboard. However, Compology's dahsboard allows customers to monitor volume trends within the containers, dynamically route their collection, and keep track of their containers using a GPS system.
Gates said the company prides itself on offering more than just a routing service.
"We don't want to just provide more data, we want to provide something that's actionable," said Gates. "We don't want our customers to feel like they need teams of data analysts or people who are technology experts in order to use our product, so we're very full serviced. We are responsible for the installation of the physical hardware and all of its maitenence, and then we're entering into a partnership with our clients where we want to help transition from static routing to dynamic routing and not just ship them a pallet of sensors and give them a username and login and say 'good luck.' And I think that's pretty unique for us in the industry as a whole."
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