5 May 2004
BERLIN – Berlin authorities are hoping new solar-powered litter bins that say “thank you” and light up at night will encourage Berliners to be more litter-conscious.
Twenty of the high-tech bins have been set up across the German capital following a year-long test.
The bright orange bins have the general outward appearance of any other litter bins, except for the solar cells on top.
But when you toss litter inside, a voice responds with “danke schoen” (thank you) or “gut gemacht” (well done) or any of a variety of other cute sayings which garbologists are busily programming the bins to say.
At night, instead of talking, the bins just light up.
“We thought it might be a bit unsettling to some people to have a voice address them from out of no where on a dark street,” says Sabine Thuemler, Berlin Sanitation Services spokeswoman.
“So once it gets dark, a photo cell switches the bin from talk mode to glow mode,” she explained. “That way it just glows silently so people can spot it more easily.”
During the trial period a prototype was set up for a whole day near the Berlin Sanitation Services headquarters in Tempelhofer Damm. Reactions were recorded on videotape by a hidden camera.
“It was a bit like watching ‘Candid Camera’ and some of the reactions were very funny,” Thuemler admits. “But generally, the public thought they were a great idea and got a kick out of them.”
The bins can be programmed to say virtually anything and, while there are no plans to make them interactive and engage in longwinded conversations, the bins could be programmed to give useful directions.
For example, one bin has been programmed to direct litterers to other bins along the same street.
“Be sure to visit my waste bin buddies at Alexander Platz,” it says cheerily.
The message takes on another meaning for Berliners, who know that Alexander Platz is notorious as a congregating place for homeless derelicts.
Subject: German news