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The Laziest Smart Bin Ever! A New Trash Can Design that Makes It Easier to Recycle Than Not To

One way to get people to recycle more at home is to design a new kind of trash can that makes it easier to recycle a can or bottle than to throw out waste in the trash. As CCE and University of Exeter's research reveals, there's some tension in many homes between recyclers and those who would rather just simply throw everything in the trash because it's easier than recycling. Certainly, laziness plays a major role in explaining why many people don't recycle at home. Rather than see laziness as an obstacle to recycling, it can actually encourage people to recycle given the right product innovations. My idea for a 3-section smart bin may be one solution to the recycling problem.

Photo of Haig Panossian
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Written by

Explain your idea in one sentence

My idea is a smart bin design that encourage people normally too lazy to recycle to do so because of a 3-section design that makes recycling cans and bottles easier than throwing them into the trash.
My idea is a smart bin with 3 sections for cans/bottles, paper, and waste. Similar to many of the two-compartment smart bins already available in the market, there are 2 compartments (one for cans/bottles and one for waste) created by a vertical division in the middle of the bin.

However, unlike existing smart bins, the side of the bin for cans/bottles would have a circular hole (5-8 inch diameter) so that cans and bottles can be placed into that compartment without having to open the top of the bin.  

Also, below those 2 sections will be a sliding tray (8-12 inches height, same length & width as the top portion of the bin) at the base for recycling paper products.  

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. How well do you think this idea will create new habits for the people involved?

Really well. I can see it creating lasting behavioural changes - 50%

The idea is pretty good but I’m not sure it will make new habits - 50%

Not sure the idea would really help people establish long-lasting habits - 0%

2. Can the idea be scaled to work in different countries and with different people?

Yes – it’s clear how the idea could be adopted by people from far and wide - 66.7%

Seems like it could work but needs some fleshing out - 16.7%

I don’t think it could be easily used in different locations - 16.7%

3. Can the idea be used regardless of the local recycling schemes?

Yes – it doesn’t seem to rely on a particular collection scheme - 66.7%

Possibly – although it might work better under some schemes rather than others - 33.3%

I think it might only work under particular circumstances - 0%

4. How easy would it be to pilot a version of the idea to test it out?

Really easy – ways to test this idea further are already springing to mind - 66.7%

Piloting this idea would be possible but it could take a lot of time and resources - 16.7%

A pilot doesn’t seem easy at this point - 16.7%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world - 16.7%

I liked it but preferred others - 50%

It didn’t get me too excited - 33.3%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks can dig who they're collaborating with here. Think skills, experience, passions & wit!

Photo of Ariam Mogos

Hi Haig- Nice proposal! I'm curious to know how your prototype could be just as affordable as other smart bins on the market. I imagine the additional bin would increase production costs, raise the price to recoup manufacturing costs and therefore make it the more expensive option on the shelf. Would you use similar materials (steel, etc.) to build it? A higher price tag might deter those consumers who are unmotivated to recycle from purchasing it. What are your thoughts? I'm looking forward to reading more about this excellent design!

Photo of Hermione Taylor

Love this idea - ease of recycling is definitely a big factor! I would definitely recommend doing lots of user testing on this, just as the OpenIDEO guys suggested below. And it shouldn't just be about how easy it is to throw stuff away, but also how easy it is to empty the bins... if it comes to bin collection day and you're in a hurry (or half asleep, as is usually my case), you might start to really resent recycling if clever stylish bin makes it too hard to empty...!

Good luck.

Photo of Paul Reader

Hi Haig and Hermione,
I agree bin is very clever and stylish and I like it very much!
You make a good point Hermione. I often 'miss' my collection day but since I live alone and collection is fortnightly it doesn't usually matter.
Nevertheless separating inside will, I'm sure, lead inevitably to better outside recycling practices.

Photo of Abby S

It's the simple things like this that will get people recycling more. :) my next door neighbour has a double bin. She complain that the smaller recycling bit gets full more quickly than the huge waste part. I suggested she switched and she looked at me like I was some sort of genius. ;) the one thing your design could do with is taking into account different recycling schemes. We have mixed recycling. Maybe a smaller waste section with a lid and a bigger open section for recycling for areas like mine. :)

Photo of Paul Reader

You are absolutely right Abby!
We too have mixed recycling here in many parts of Australia.
Given the potential large market I imagine 2 or 3 variations on this design could easily be accommodated.

Photo of Robert James

Hi Haig, really interesting to read about the concepts of smart bins through brilliantly clever design. Only today I was walking through Central London with some food packaging to dispose of. Approached a bin to find that the design of the holes didn't allow me to dispose of my crumpled up bag; the bin had only circular holes (like for your bottle idea) and narrow, wide holes; for newspapers I presume. Even if I could pop my crumpled bag in to the bottle hole, the fact that it was clearly a hole for bottles stopped me from contaminating the waste collection. There is an article on the design here:

Do you think you could incorporate a manual compactor in your design? Something similar to this for cans ( of this for paper ( to reduce wasted space inside the bin?

Photo of Paul Reader

Very interesting interesting insights into design thinking around these issues Robert.
Early on our local council discouraged the compacting of cans on the basis that some sorting processes utilise blown air to separate the aluminium cans. I suspect that is now superceded in most recycling plants.
Here is a video that describes precisely what happens to my mixed recycling. ( )
Although separated recycling is the ideal, especially in shared premises, it was tried early on in our area (we were asked to tie paper in bundles) the cost of maintaining the separation did not survive transfer of the service between councilI'm still very much in favour of separate streams where it can be achieved.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Great job on this simple yet smart Top 25 idea, Haigh. We really liked how you built on the insights from the Research phase to come up with a cheeky bin that makes it a little bit harder to throw out waste, and easier to recycle. We think the neutral colours will have a wide appeal, and that the slim design would work well in small kitchens. As you look ahead into Refinement, we’d love for you to get involved in some user testing and refining. You could test whether the hole should be on top or on the side, and experiment with size and ease of use. Our hunch is that it shouldn’t be too hard to throw out normal waste, so finding that right balance between ease and effort seems like an important part of your design brief. We’d also encourage you to think broad and imagine what the Lazy Smart Bin might be able to do if it were enhanced with technology. Way to go! For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out and catch our Lowdown on Refinement at

Photo of Karoline K

Haig, I'm really into the idea of a lazy smart bin that makes it easy to recycle and slightly harder to add to throw out trash. Super simple and potentially really effective. I love how you build on both Nathan's four barriers to recycling and the exeter study Tip: use the green 'build upon button' on the right, to link your idea to the research contributions that inspired you. That way those folks can come over and see your awesome solution :-)

Photo of James Fok

Haig, loving your idea! Especially the special can and bottle collection! At my gym, we use plastic cups... eeek! We do our bits by having a collecting bin with 5 holes (all the same) just a little larger than the cups. The plastic cups neatly fall = perfect.

As for home however, every piece of the waste is not likely to same and won't neatly stack on top of each other. Many cans and bottled have a lot of empty space inside. For us in the UK, space is at a premium as our fellow contributors Ian Gregory has mentioned. His idea is to have some form of mechanical device to reduce these "empty" space. I think your two ideas can be combined to form a brilliant mega idea.

As a one time engineering graduate, may I suggest incorporating some form of a can crusher to help reduce the volume so that each bin owner can recycle more cans before sending it off with the waste collector.

I know the crusher doesn't help bottles, plastic trays and everything else recyclable, but it will help solve the problem, one can at a time.