Bigbelly has brought technology to the forefront of a product that couldn’t seem any more disconnected: trash cans. The company and its fleet of smart trash and recycling cans have completely changed how cities, universities, and hospitals manage and budget their waste collection processes. Just thirteen years after its original design, Bigbelly has supplied 1,500 cities in 47 countries around the world with trash/recycling bins that have helped reduce customer waste management costs by 70-80% .
In 2003, while living in Boston, Bigbelly founder, Jim Poss, grew fed up with the sight of overflowing trash cans and idle trash trucks burning billions of gallons of diesel fuel per year. In response, Poss designed a solar powered trash compactor with five times the carrying capacity of a traditional trash can . Poss’ value proposition was both simple and effective. His trash cans offered city’s the opportunity to significantly reduce the frequency (and cost) of its trash collections operations. Soon enough, cities such as Boston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New York, Vancouver, and Chicago began to buy in. That said, Bigbelly’s business potential was limited. Its product was not much more than a superior standalone city trash can that cost significantly more than traditional trash cans.
That all changed six years later when Bigbelly began installing cellular modems into its bins. These modems would connect waste management teams to their entire collection of Bigbelly trash/recycling cans . With the old Bigbelly models, a red light would blink on the trash can when it reached capacity, but only people who physically walked by the trash cans would know the bins were full. As a result, cities still spent plenty of money paying employees to drive around and visibly inspect all trash cans. Now with wireless notification, however, waste management teams didn’t have to go anywhere; the trash cans would simply notify them wirelessly and waste management would dispatch collection trucks when necessary.
In 2011, Bigbelly inserted itself even further into the waste management value stream with its “Smart Grid for Waste and Recycling.” Also referred to as the CLEAN console, it provided waste managers with access to real-time and historical data on fullness levels, rate of volume change, and collections. 
The Bigbelly CLEAN console armed waste managers with the capability to quickly respond to current issues as well as strategically plan for future requirements. Managers now had all the tools necessary to map out optimal locations for trash cans and design collection routes that maximized trash pick-up. Not only that, but Bigbelly could now deliver software functionality, diagnostics, upgrades, and proactive maintenance upgrades remotely from a network command center . Bigbelly was no longer a trash can provider, it was a waste management service provider. It even required customers to start paying an additional service fee. Leila Dillon, VP of Marketing, said, “[E]very single customer going forward no longer thought of this as buying trash stations, but instead about entering into a partnership with Bigbelly.” 
Bigbelly’s expanding value proposition has led to incredible gains in operational and cost efficiency. Philadelphia, for example, has reduced its trash collections from seventeen times per week to just three, saving one million dollars per year in fuel and operational costs. 
What else is there to do??
The company hasn’t stopped pushing digital transformation. For the past couple of years, it’s been exploring the idea of potentially turning its bins into Wi-Fi hotspots for consumer use and is currently testing these capabilities in certain areas of New York City . If Bigbelly can actually bring Wi‑Fi hotspots to its trash cans, it’s not hard to imagine the company’s appetite growing well beyond that of garbage collection data. Bigbelly could start collecting a huge range of city data. In early 2015, Bigbelly CEO Jack Kutner said that “the possibilities for data collection via sensors on the machines are endless: from pedestrian traffic to pollution and radiation detection.”  Going forward, it’ll be very interesting to see how big of a role Kutner wants to play in city data analytics. The obvious concern is that if Bigbelly moves further into big data collection, hackers will start to notice. Depending on the sensitivity of the new data, I question whether Bigbelly has the digital infrastructure necessary to protect itself and its clients from cyber‑attacks. All that said, whatever Bigbelly’s digital future holds, it’s amazing to think that we’re even discussing it. We’re talking about trash cans here people.
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 PR Newswire, “Bigbelly Receives ‘Acceptance Letters’ from Universities and Colleges across the Country.” http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bigbelly-receives-acceptance-letters-from-universities-and-colleges-across-the-country-300040594.html
 Babson Magazine, “Green Trash: How do you make a buck and save the earth? One Dumpster at a time.” http://www.babson.edu/news-events/babson-magazine/winter-2013/Pages/green-trash.aspx
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 WasteDive, “Bigbelly launches Connect: We’re changing our whole business model.” http://www.wastedive.com/news/bigbelly-launches-connect-were-changing-our-whole-business-model/406613/
 The Huffington Post, “These 4 Major Cities are Using Sweet New Technology to Become Smarter and Greener.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/09/16/smart-cities-green-infrastructure_n_6977504.html
 Upstart Business Journal, “Is that just a trash can, or might it also be a wi-fi hotspot?” http://upstart.bizjournals.com/companies/innovation/2015/01/23/bigbelly-solar-power-trash-cans-wifi-hotspot.html?ana=e_ubj&u=16632873754f4bfbf3a78dab89d04a&t=1422154358&page=all