A smart trash can in San Antonio.
A smart trash can in San Antonio. - 
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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."


Follow Chris Farrell at @cfarrellecon