Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Automatic Waste Compactors

Smart Pack Waste ComposterI had the opportunity the other day to watch, in action, an interesting device called the Smart-Pack Waste Compactor at my local McDonald's (no, don't ask me why I was at McDonald's, it was a moment of weakness, I swear...).

I didn't know, at the time, it was called Smart-Pack, but a three-minute google search came up with what I needed to know. It is a garbage box, with a built-in compactor. Some restaurant owners rave about it: "The Smart-Pack is one of the best problem-solving innovations to come around in a very long time!"

It is motion-sensor activated, which means that if you have a tray of refuse, the front lid will magically open, and allow you to dump the contents of your Big Mac container, drink glass, liner tray, and anything else you have, into its automated maw.

Sounds great, right? Well, as I said, I sat there for some time (I have no life) observing its actions:

* If somebody walks even close by it, on their way out of the restaurant, with or without garbage, it opens its lid, like a little newborn baby bird, asking plaintively for more food...er, I mean garbage. This isn't the most energy efficient machine I'd seen. Why is this necessary? Do we not have the physical strength anymore to open the lid of a garbage bin while we put our McDonald's trash into it?
* Every so often (about once a minute), whether there's enough garbage in it or not, it goes through a several-second compacting process. Again, not the best design. When I worked for a high-rise hotel in the 1970s, the building garbage compacting system only worked when there was enough garbage to activate it. It was a simple, primitive, photoelectric sensing system. And it seemed to work okay 'way back then. Again, a little more thought would make this beast more energy efficient.
* While surfing to find out more about Smart-Pack, I noticed a site that said that the compaction worked so well, it sometimes takes two employees to move the full bin to the regular garbage bin. "With typical dining area waste, the average weight is usually between 60 to 85 pounds." Hernia, anyone?
* The thing talks to you: "The Smart-Pack can also play messages to your patrons." "Our customers even love them... No matter how old they are, people are amazed by the talking feature." This, honestly, was rather annoying, as I was lined up for my McExtra, and I kept hearing this disembodied voice telling me something, but it was so muffled, I couldn't make out what it was saying: "There is a fire in the Eaton Centre. All patrons must leave the building now" For all I know, that's what it was crooning.
* In all fairness, here's the FAQ: http://www.atsource.ca/smart-pack-faq.htm

I'm not saying these are bad things - after all, anything that compacts the trash we send to places like Michigan can't be all bad - but I'm wondering if just a little more thought would have meant a more practical device, and an even more energy efficient design, in these days of "green consciousness".

For what it's worth...


At 7:50 AM, Blogger Craig said...

Hi Dana,
The Smart-Pack is indeed a curious machine !...thanks for spending some time checking out the one you saw in McDonalds (PS... Occasionally I also venture into the 'Golden Arches').

Note that the Smart-Pack front deposit door opens automatically so you don't have to touch it whilst depositing rubbish (is more hygienic)...this automatic door opening feature also assists mobility impaired folks.

The Smart-Pack does consume a minimal amount of electricity, however it can reduce the frequency of dumpster clearances by those huge waste trucks which actually helps the environment !

There is a special lifter trolley that can be used to transport the compacted waste 'cube' to the dumpster (Hernia averted !...phew)

Greetings From Australia !

Craig Sharwood


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