A smart waste bin developed at Ventures cuts waste disposal costs and toxic air pollutants all at once

Can do: The eCeptacle PowerBin holds three-times the trash of a normal trash container thanks to a hydraulic compaction system. The bin automatically notifies hauling services when it’s full, thereby eliminating unnecessary pre-scheduled pickups.

A few years ago, while walking in downtown Indianapolis, Grant Jenkins, the founder of eCeptacle, said he was discouraged by what he saw as the wasteful and inefficient way trash was being managed. Despite improvements in practically every other area of life, waste management seemed to be untouched by the technological improvements of recent decades. Fuel-guzzling garbage trucks were still prowling the streets and alleys, making pre-scheduled pickups whether needed or not.

After dwelling on this observation, and several months of market research, Jenkins approached Rose-Hulman Ventures with his concept for the PowerBin, a smart, green, and Wi-Fi-enabled garbage receptacle that’s only emptied when full.

Ventures engineers and student interns took the idea and made some radical changes and improvements, Jenkins says. One important innovation was the development of a foot-activated opener.

“Nobody wants to touch a public garbage can,” Jenkins says. “That was one of Ventures’ very cool contributions.”

Another benefit of the foot pedal is that it creates stored energy, which is used to operate a hydraulic compactor when the waste inside the container reaches a predetermined level. Trash compaction means the eCeptacle PowerBin can also hold about three-times more garbage than would otherwise be the case. Then, once the PowerBin reaches capacity, it sends an electronic message via Wi-Fi to a hauling service, eliminating the need for potentially fuel-wasting weekly pickups.

Yet another feature of the PowerBin is DigitalMace, an alarm system triggered by a smart-phone app. The app’s “panic button” enables anyone facing an emergency to set off lights and sirens on the bin while simultaneously alerting local authorities of the exact location of the trouble.

The DigitalMace feature “really gives downtown, or any other location, more peace of mind,” Jenkins says.

Finally, PowerBins are equipped with digital sign displays that can be used for weather alerts, public notices, or revenue-generating advertisements.

The first PowerBins are set to appear in downtown Indianapolis this summer, Jenkins says. Other potential customers include a Fortune 500 business, several Indiana cities, professional sports teams, and public parks departments. For more information about eCeptacle, visit the company’s website at www.eceptacle.com.