The Wonders of a $200 Voice-Activated Trash Can

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

You may recall that I have spent a lot of time thinking about trash cans. (See: Why I’m Totally Obsessed with My Expensive Trash Can.) Whether you believe it’s worth spending big bucks on trash cans or not (commenters had strong, mixed feelings on this), I think we can agree that there are certain features that make tech-y trash cans superior to the old-school ones. So the question becomes: How much tech do you really need?

After reading my earlier post, the Simplehuman team reached out to me (like a real waste-disposal celebrity!) to ask if I wanted to try their 58-Liter Trash Can with Voice and Motion Sensor (pricey at $200). What’s new about this trash can? It can sense not just your presence (as in, when you wave your hand near it), but also hear your voice. So when you say “open can,” this fancy trash can opens.

(Image credit: Amazon)

It was only a matter of time, right? For anyone who’s gotten used to talking to Alexa and Siri, the idea of talking to your trash is not so weird. We don’t have an Echo in the house, but I do sometimes ask my phone for the weather. I would say as a family, we are medium comfortable with talking to inanimate objects. So we’re testing the trash can out. Here are our learnings after the first week.

1. It really can hear you.

Needless to say, my kids are obsessed. My 2-year-old sat in front of it saying “open can” for about 10 minutes when it first arrived, and then she and her sister experimented with different volume levels and accents. It’s very intuitive and the can responds well when you talk directly to it, but has a tougher time if there’s lots of noise in the room (like with the radio playing) or if the kids holler at it from across the room. I have startled my husband a few times talking to the can when it’s just the two of us, though.

2. It needs power.

Not totally a surprise, although it hadn’t occurred to me before it arrived: The trash can needs a power source for the sensor to work. You can either plug it in or use batteries. In my kitchen, I have to run an extension cord to plug it in, and in general I prefer not to use energy for things if I don’t have to. My dad suggested I use rechargeable batteries to cut down on energy-use guilt.

3. It looks best against a wall.

Part of what I love about my original butterfly step can is that it sits flush against the side of the cabinet, and all the mechanisms are contained within the frame. Not so with this can. The motor (and a pocket for extra bags) are on the outside back, so if you put it against the side of a cabinet, there is a gap. From the front, it looks great, but if you have it sideways, you see that part jutting out.

4. It’s a good-working trash can.

This is pretty much a given with SimpleHuman, but I’m happy to report that the lid opens smoothly and stays open for five seconds (although you’re definitely tempted to tell it to close, which is not a feature). The motion sensor works well, too, and I found that as the week went on, I was more likely to use the motion sensor versus talking to the can. The opening for the can is nice and wide and my family isn’t likely to miss the can, which makes me happy.

5. It’s great for people with limited mobility.

When I ask this trash can to do one something, it does it right away! With zero back-talk! There is something super fulfilling about saying “open can” in your firmest Mom Voice and actually getting what you want.

Back to being serious: I told my aunt, who has rheumatoid arthritis, about this trash can, and she got really excited. She has actually been on the hunt for a voice-activated trash can to make working in the kitchen easier. It was a good wake-up call that for people with limited mobility or chronic pain, a voice-activated trash can could be a real help and not just a fun-to-have gadget.

What do you think? Can you see yourself investing in a $200-voice-activated trash can?