Overview: Sorting garbage into compost, recycling or landfill can be a surprisingly difficult task. To help University of Washington (UW) students with it, the Smart Bins installation features separate receptacles, each fitted with a scale, a microcomputer and a digital screen. When in use, the digital screens show how much money is saved by proper composting and recycling and the hypothetical campuswide savings if everyone did the same; when not in use, the screens show correctly sorted trash items cascading into each bin. For the 10 to 40 people per hour who have used Smart Bins since it launched at a UW campus café, throwing out garbage became fun.
macMonkey Digital Studios was asked to add digital scales and a monitor to each of three different type of waste bins (trash, recycling and compost). The animation videos needed to loop continuously until waste was put into a bin which triggered the digital scale and in turn provided feedback on how much the waste weighed and an approximate calculation of the cost savings. The scales had to be triggered with very small items (minimum of 0.08 ounces) and allow the bin container to be emptied each day and replaced again without having to reset the system. Each data point was then pushed to an external Google Sheet for data collection and monitoring of the design’s effectiveness. Finally, the entire system was able to be remotely monitored, updated, and rebooted as needed.
• The project is powered by several Raspberry Pis, programmed in Python.
• After installation, correct composting increased by 20 percent, and incorrect recycling decreased by 15 percent.