Trash cans make techy comeback in Japan as tourists flood cities

Japan has long managed to keep its streets spotless despite having no trash cans in sight, but cities are now turning to “smart” bins as tourist numbers — and the amount of garbage — surges.

This week, the tourist-heavy Dotonbori district in Osaka installed around 20 new technologically enabled garbage cans called SmaGO. Solar panels allow the trash can to automatically sense when it’s getting full and then compress the garbage by about 20%. It’s also connected to a smartphone app that analyzes data on garbage volume and sends alerts to workers before it fills up.

“Some local governments are finally starting to realize that there’s little else you can do other than provide trash cans,” said Yohei Takemura, chief executive officer of startup Forcetec, which distributes the SmaGO in Japan. “There are also more people saying that they would like to experiment with garbage cans to see if it will make their cities cleaner.”

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