Smart trash can helps educate reluctant recyclers

It'll even tell you what to throw in the garbage and what can be re-used.

France and recycling go together like hammers and fromage frais, which is why the country has some of the worst recycling rates in Europe. Local startup Uzer is hoping to encourage better habits with Eugene, a smart trash can that'll tell users what they can recycle and track what they're consuming. Essentially, it's a pedal bin with a barcode scanner bolted onto the top, but if that's what it takes to get folks separating their cardboard and plastic, it might just be worth it.

Let's say that you had a microwave meal that you'd eaten and you were about to discard the packaging. Simply wander over to Eugene and scan the product's barcode until the display leaps into life. It'll say, for instance, that the cardboard body and hard plastic tray can be recycled, but the thin film has to go in general waste. Then you can go about your day with the feeling of satisfaction that can only be gained from knowing you're helping not destroy the very planet we live on.

Naturally, as a connected product, Eugene comes with its own smartphone app that'll offer a variety of additional features. For instance, the app can track what you've thrown away and add it to a shopping list for your next trip to the supermarket. Alternatively, it can add each discarded item to your online order, enabling you to replenish your supply. Uzer CEO Clément Castelli also thinks that brands may want to incentivize use of the system with discounts based on how much of their products you recycle.

Unfortunately, the startup is still in the prototype stage and isn't expecting to have Eugene ready for sale until well into 2017. But the company has promised that it'll have a second product, with the barcode scanner and display separated from the bin, ready to show at CES in January. The cost for the full-fat bin is pegged at €299, although that could change depending on how many people continue to struggle with the concept of throwing cardboard and thick plastic into bin marked cardboard and thick plastic.

Oh, and if you're wondering why a recycling startup would call its flagship trash can product Eugene, it's a French in-joke. In 1884, politician Eugene Poubelle decreed that all Parisians had to dump their trash in specialized cans. Resentful locals nicknamed these bins la Poubelle, and the name eventually became the official French term for trash can. That's a fact from us, for free, that you can use to impress your friends this weekend.