• 07.24.13

These Trash Cans Know When They’re Full, And Need Picking Up

The Enveo creates a system that makes trash collection easier, and gets smarter over time, so it can create even more efficient trash collection systems.

These Trash Cans Know When They’re Full, And Need Picking Up

Imagine a block with 10 public trash cans on it. Now think about the truck that picks them up. At the moment, it goes to all the cans, every time–regardless of what’s inside. Sometimes there’s little to pick up; sometimes it’s overflowing.


This is dumb trash collection, the old way. The new way could be Enevo‘s smart sensor. By having a trash-sensing device inside the can, a waste management company can know when it’s full (or empty). That means it picks up the trash when it really needs picking up. It leaves the rest for another day or two.

Developed in Finland and used by a few customers there on a trial basis, Enevo is a sensing and route planning system for garbage. Most excitingly, it has the potential for getting smarter over time. By laying down a record of collections, it should allow operators to predict when cans will be full (or, at least, more likely to be).

“In Europe, there are some customers that have been using it a few months, and they are getting a pretty accurate readings,” Marrku Lento, Enevo’s CEO.

“In Finland, we have a couple of containers with customers who are next to a little harbor. In the wintertime, there is absolutely no activity, because there are no fishermen or anybody there. In the summer, when the ocean is clear, activity starts to go up. This is the sort of data, the waste management companies didn’t previously have.”

We’ve covered a few smart bin solutions. There’s the the Renew, which was deployed, expensively, in London. Many U.S. cities are using the Big Belly–a solar-powered trash compactor, which reduces the need for collections (Philadelphia cut its trips downtown from 17 a week to five).

But, like the Renew, the Big Belly is expensive. Cleveland, for example, paid $5,000 for the main bin, plus $2,000 for an additional recycling bin. And that doesn’t include the monthly maintenance fee. Lento says the Enevo device is cheaper, because there are little or no upfront fees–just a monthly fee of “tens of dollars.”

Whether through sun compaction or better route management, though, fewer collections is better for everyone. “It means less trucks, using less fuel, and maybe in the future there will be smaller trucks,” says Lento. “It’s better for the environment, and less expensive to run. The waste management companies have to change the way they’re doing this.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.