Create a Low Budget Smart Trash Can with Arduino

Smart trash cans were all the rage a couple of years ago. The idea is simple; a sensor detects movement or the presence of trash and triggers a servo to open the lid of the trash can.

So many different builds of this core idea have been produced over the years, but the one you can see in the accompanying video is by far the most basic we’ve seen. Featuring an Arduino, ultrasonic sensors, a servo motor and enough hot glue to sink a ship, this trash can is literally what it says it is.

Not only is it for trash, it’s also made of trash: old cardboard, to be precise.

This gives the build a bit of charm, especially if you’re a keen recycler. Unfortunately, this example isn’t particularly big; there’s a distinct lack of capacity inside, but you don’t have to copy it. It’s basically a proof of concept, albeit one with rather rough edges. Of course, cardboard can be decorated with little effort, so this shouldn’t prove to be a major obstacle.

If you’re familiar with the concept of a smart trash can, then you’ll know that they can be built from almost anything; card, plastic, metal. An actual trash can might even make the perfect solution, and there’s probably an IKEA trash can that can be repurposed and fitted with the necessary components to make it smart. Many other boxes-with-lids could also be repurposed … anything from a lunchbox to a full-sized wheelie bin might do the trick (although you might prefer to find an external application for the Arduino, sensors, and servo, just in case...).

Code for the trash can is available from Arduino Create. Having watched the video, you’ve probably got your own ideas in mind on how to build your own low budget trash can. There’s even the potential for the trash can itself to be binned, the important components retained for a subsequent, improved build the next time a parcel arrives from Amazon.

You’ve got to agree, that’s a pretty cool proposition.


Christian Cawley

Christian Cawley spends a lot of time with Raspberry Pis and scours the web looking for interesting DIY electronics projects and news for ElectroMaker. He's currently trying to show his 7 year old son how to get to grips with Scratch, but so far to no avail.


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