Emo Trash Can (Fab Creation Week)

Created By:


Created On:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 20:36


The challenge we took on was in a library in Valby (that is open late at night without staff, in an area where a lot of youth used to hang out in the street at night and now use the library as a kind of youth club). While the librarians are thrilled that the young people use the library more, they do face an issue of trash thrown/left in the childrens/youth section of the library. Particularly paper/waste from food.

They have tried many different things, but it hasn't changed anything. 

How we solved it
We wanted to change the frame and tone of this problem. Instead of having grownup librarians tell the young people to be more responsible and clean up after themselves, we wanted to engage and involve the youth. Make it fun to throw your trash in the right place – to let the children and young people feel it was their solution. Nudge them to take responsibility.

Our solution is based on nudging techniques, where you softly push and poke people to do what you want them to do. We wanted to create a change in behaviour and educate the youngsters – without them feeling like they were being told or taught.

We decided to use storytelling to create some emotional attachment to the trashcan. Our prototype is a small, sad trashcan – build to resemble a robot with personality. It sighs because it feels left all alone when nobody uses it. It lights up, smiles, laughs and speaks when trash is thrown in.

A PIR motion sensor connected to an Arduino board, LEDs and a speaker with a memory card with sounds is placed inside the trashcan. The outside of the trashcan is made from red acrylic. A separate can is placed inside to ensure hygiene and ease for the cleaners who has to empty it.

Open source and involvement
Since we have worked in a FAB LAB setting, we have used open source technology. We have left the software code open to ensure the involvement, engagement and ongoing modification of the trashcan. We believe strongly in the need for involving users in the solution, so we will actively – and through the collaboration of an employee at the library- invite the young library users, particularly the ones who use the small Fablab at the library, to take ownership of the trashcan and change it to their liking. We are certain this will help along the nudging and the behavioural change we are looking for.

Sustainability and recycling
Our trashcan solution can easily be modified or replicated to allow for the sorting of garbage and recycling. We think using different sounds could help people actually sort their trash in public (indoor) places and in this way help teach children and young people to recycle. It can be made from different materials to allow for a sustainable and recyclable emo trash can.

PIR Motion Sensor
Adafruit Wave Shield for Arduino Kit - v1.1
LED Lights
Acryl 5 mm
MDF 4 mm