First ‘Smart’ Trash Can Deployed in Ingleside

A PEL SolarStreetBin was installed in Ingleside in December 2019.

A “smart” trash can was installed on the busy sidewalk in front of Unity Plaza in mid-December by the San Francisco Department of Public Works.

The 4-foot-high rectangular receptacle, outfitted with cigarette butt and dog waste cans on its sides and topped with a solar panel for powering its motorized trash compactor, utilizes Internet-of-Things technology to inform waste collection company Recology when it is ready to be emptied. 

Receptacles like these are credited with creating a more efficient waste collection system.

They can be rented or purchased. Ocean Avenue’s bin was paid for by a grant.

The SolarStreetBin is manufactured by PEL Waste Reduction Equipment, a company based in Ireland. In November, the receptacle won in the Manufacturing and Design category of The Irish Times Innovation Awards.

Last year, PEL Waste Reduction Equipment installed six SolarStreetBin’s in U.N. Plaza to determine if it offered the correct features for general use in San Francisco.

The SolarStreetBin is similar to the Bigbelly brand of high-tech trash cans, which City Hall and Business Improvement Districts have installed in many neighborhoods. It is opened with a foot pedal and can hold 10 times more waste than a regular trash bin.

However, unlike the city’s standard issue green trash cans, these do not have a recycling receptacle — although PEL Waste Reduction Equipment does make bins for recycling — and they are tamper proof. It is difficult to fish out their contents.

As executive director of the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside Cultural Participation Project, Maurice Rivers regularly organizes events in Unity Plaza and advocates on behalf of the public space’s maintenance and activation.

“This is by far the best-designed public trash can I’ve seen, and for me its high price is justified by the convenience, organization and style it offers,” Rivers said. “Ocean Avenue needs more trash cans for the increased foot traffic, and especially for Unity Plaza, which serves students and ordinary pedestrians alike.”

“The city should be making it easier for people to recycle and reduce littering,” Rivers added. “And this looks and functions better than the standard green metal trash cans all over the city.”