Seoul-based Ecube Labs has developed a solar-powered trash bin that can deduct the operating cost of trash collection vehicles and costs related to manpower.

Solar-powered waste bin and management solution providers have saved a lot of money for cities, attracting a lot of capital from both government and enterprises globally. BigBelly Solar created solar-powered bins that act as on-site trash compactors, saving Philadelphia nearly $900,000 USD in one year. Finland-based Enevo collects and analyses data from refuse containers across the world and received $15.8 million USD of investment from Taiwan-based Foxconn.

A recent landslide in China was blamed on a man-made garbage pile. To confront its huge amount of trash, China is now building world’s biggest trash incinerator which will be solar powered and generate a small amount of electricity. However, Ecube Labs wants to compress trash on the street, before it reaches the landfill.

Solar-powered compaction bin Clean Cube
Solar-powered compaction bin Clean Cube

Ecube Labs provides a solar-powered compaction bin called the ‘Clean Cube’ that compresses trash and holds up to eight times more trash than ordinary bins do, which reduces the operating cost of trash collection vehicles. Using solar power, the bin can charge itself to notify the trash amount to desktop, tablet and smartphones. Since these Clean Cubes are high priced, users can instead attach a sensor ‘Clean Cap’, a solar-powered trash fill-level sensor, to any existing bins to detect the amount of trash.

The company is now working with British telecom company Vodafone‘s global M2M (Machine-to-Machine) business to allow waste collection managers use real-time monitoring software called Clean Cube Networks (CCN) to monitor bin status on their mobile phone.

Ecube Labs’ solar-powered trash bins expanded to European countries in 2013, and are going through trial tests in the UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, South Korea, and gardens and stadiums in Singapore.

“It is useful in countries that has higher salary and wider territory to manage trash bins. Currently, smart city builders and city developers have demand for these bins,” Sunbeam Gwon, founder and CEO of Ecube Labs told TechNode. “After using the bin, they reported that it minimized the overflow of trash bins.”

How The Solar-Powered Bin Got Started 

Mr.Kwon lived in Sinchon, one of the overcrowded districts in Seoul, where he observed that trash bins were overflowing with trash all the time.

Ecube Labs Team
Ecube Labs Team

“Seoul has a lot of people outdoors, even after 10 p.m., and trash bins easily fill up during the night and harms the street sanitation. However, you never see a trash bin overflowing in your home, because you squeeze the trash using your feet to minimize the volume. I thought we can do the same for trash cans in the street,” Mr. Kwon said.

He realized this type of self-compressing trash bin would be vey costly. To learn more about the problem, Mr. Kwon helped trash collectors collect trash at midnight and interviewed them. He found out that an increased number of waste bins lead to a larger number of waste collecting managers, and started developing an integrated trash bin monitoring system.

Founded in 2011, Ecube Labs received $1.7 million USD funding from Coolidge Corner Investment. Currently, the bins have been adopted in overseas countries and are supported by local partners.

“As these bins are public infrastructure, our solution has been welcomed by overseas governments,” Mr. Kwon says. “Our solution can be also applied to compressing industrial waste, construction waste, waste oil, and waste water.”

The company says Clean Cap sensor types are welcomed by enterprises for their lower price point compared to Clean Cube bins, and provides solutions based on a monthly subscription model of usage of sensors, and they do not monetize on the bin itself.

“[The] environmental industry is a traditional and conservative area where technology has not much penetrated yet. Our IoT solution can collect data on trash bins across the area, and in the future, we will be able to provide big data-driven waste collection logistics,” Mr. Kwon said.

Image Credit: Ecube Labs

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Eva Yoo

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at

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