How an $8,000 garbage bin actually saves taxpayers money

A smart trash can in San Antonio.

An $8,000 garbage can might sound like the epitome of wasted taxpayer money to some. Others, however, view it as just the opposite. San Antonio, Texas is among the cities with high tech trash cans, and it's using them to save money through data collection. The smart trash compactors use solar power and digitally indicate when they're full. That means trash trucks don't have to come by as often to empty them, and the expensive garbage cans will pay for themselves in six years through money saved.

"Government is sitting on a mountain of big data -- and by the way, I don't mean the spying agencies -- I'm talking about the welfare agencies, the housing agencies," says Marketplace's economics guy Chris Farrell. "They have enormous amounts of data. So what if there was more sharing of information and data? What might be the implications for government productivity? It might not be an oxymoron anymore."


About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.
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I would like to see that study. Was it done by the same people to help explain how stadiums and Olympic Games make money?

If three trash cans are a street, one at each corner and one in the middle, does this smart trash can tell a dispatch center or the trash truck not to stop because it is only half full? In the mean time the truck still goes down the street to empty the full cans on either corner. What was saved? Did anybody get laid off saving labor? The truck still goes down the street so no fuel was saved? I do not get it.

I have an idea that will save $8,000 per can. Skip a week picking up the trash. If the can is not overflowing, then go to a two or three week cycle. If it is overflowing, stick to a one week cycle or more often.

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