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Students invent talking rubbish bin

Talking Bin is an interactive rubbish bin that will make for cleaner cities and happier garbage collectors. He has good people skills too.

By Kent Kristensen, kk@sdu.dk,  11-02-2016

- Thank you. Do you have anything else?
At 93 cm tall, Talking Bin is a portly little guy who is expected to have a great impact on our habits.

He is a rubbish bin that can talk. He commends us for tossing rubbish into his belly. He also scolds us if we just leave the garbage next to him.

When he’s full, he expresses his gratitude. He also sends regular updates to his owners so that they know when he needs to be emptied.

Invented by six students

Six engineering students from SDU were the ones who invented Talking Bin. The invention was undertaken in connection with an interdisciplinary class project called "Experts in Teams".

As part of the project, the students had to develop a product and business model.  The six students went on to contact Odense Municipality and together they agreed that the municipality would run a trial with talking rubbish bins in different spots in the city.

- For the municipality, this means that garbage collectors will receive regular updates from the rubbish bins about when they need to be emptied, among other things. Then they can plan their daily routes accordingly, says engineering student Marie Høg Nielsen.

Big savings opportunity

Talking Bin will also help us change our habits so that we are better about using him and other rubbish bins. He will also be used for what is referred to as “nudging”.

- We believe that if the municipalities were to stop using as many resources as they do on cleaning up footpaths and roadsides, it could open up for big savings opportunities, Marie Høg Nielsen points out.

She references, among other things, a report from the Danish Outdoor Council last year that estimated that the municipalities use around DKK 1 billion per year in total on keeping their cities and forests clean.

Signe Risager and Marie Mielsen ved Talking Bin

Happy bin or grumpy bin?

The engineering students have deliberately given Talking Bin a bit of a personality so that he appeals to our emotions.

- We’ve conducted several user studies which show that people like receiving nice comments. And we can change these comments according to who the target group is, says fellow engineering student Signe Risager.

She and her fellow students hope that Talking Bin can come to life and appear on the municipalities’ roads and paths, school playgrounds and at large companies.

Talking Bins dressed as Hans Christian Andersen characters

Moods aren’t the only things the portly little guy has that might come in multiple versions. They could change his appearance too.

If, for example, Odense Municipality wanted to use him for the annual Hans Christian Andersen Festival, where there are normally many people on the streets and a greater demand for rubbish bins, the students have a suggestion:

- He could be dressed up as different characters from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. And it would also be possible to keep track of how much he is used via social media, says Signe Risager.

Talking Bin will be cheaper

The six engineering students have had to think in terms of design, software, electronics, product development and business plans.

There is one talking rubbish bin already on the market. It's called Bigbelly and is made in the United States. According to the students, however, it is not designed to be particularly interactive with the public.

Rather, it mainly uses software to let garbage collectors know when it is full. Furthermore, the engineering students expect their Talking Bin to be considerably cheaper.

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