Go to wedding registry sites like Blueprint Registry or Zola, and you’ll find Simplehuman trash cans. The stainless steel receptacles can cost as much as $200. Some let you step on a lever to open, others raise their lids when you wave your hand over a sensor. This year, the company introduced a new way to open a can: talk to it. Available in a $200, single-compartment version and a $250, dual-compartment option, the 58-liter can is one of the most expensive places to sling dripping takeout containers and moldy leftovers we’ve ever seen. And yet, we jumped at the chance to review a Simplehuman voice-activated trash can.
Do the can-can
For $140, you can get a 10.5-liter, single-compartment Simplehuman trash can that you open by pressing a lever on top of the can. That’s a lot of money for what is essentially a nice-looking garbage receptacle. Is $60 more for a voice-and-hand-activated version worth it? If you’re already blowing that kind of cash on something that gets grimy, it kind of is.
The sensor can comes in silver, white, rose gold (of course), and black. You can either plug it in or power it with six AA batteries if you don’t keep your trash near an outlet. When it opens, it makes a quiet, mechanical whirring sound and closes with a soft whoosh. Inside the can is a slot to keep extra bags. If you want to use specially fitted Simplehuman bags, you’ll find the bag code under the lid. A box of 60 liners costs $27, about 45 cents per bag. You can buy 90 Hefty bags for under $13 on Amazon, spending about 14 cents a bag. It took some stretching, but we did manage to fit a regular, 13-gallon bag around the sensor can’s wider opening. If you don’t want that struggle, you’ll either want to stick to the company’s bags or look for something larger that will better fit the can’s more-than-15-gallon capacity.
There are two ways to get the can to lift its lid: wave your hand in front of the sensor or say “Open can.” Actually, you can say “open” in any capacity around the can, and it will usually work. Open sesame, open lid, “I forgot the U.S. Open is on…” Seriously, that last one actually prompted the can to leap into action.
Adding voice-activation to Simplehumans’ already expensive trash cans makes them more useful and only a little pricier.
The motion sensor is pretty sensitive, too. Our cats’ tails seem to set it off when they walk by. Also, our kitten is fond of sitting on it, but while the lid will attempt to open, it hasn’t sent him flying yet. The frequent, unwanted opening might not be a huge deal — unless the can contains something with a particularly ripe scent — though it could drain battery life.
Garbage cans are probably not beacons of cleanliness in any home, even if they regularly get de-germed. It’s hard to lift the trash’s lid with scallop fingers and not transfer some ick onto the can itself. The gimmick of a voice-activated trash can is that you can dump your garbage without touching the receptacle itself. It’s pretty useful and means you don’t have to break out the disinfectant every time you’re making chicken.
Of course, the U.S. Open example proves that having microphones in everything is a spooky concept. However, while Simplehuman said at CES 2017 that a later version would have Wi-Fi, this first iteration does not. That means that even if the trash is listening to every conversation, it’s not transmitting your words to the cloud or anything. Simplehuman already has an Amazon Dash button, but it wants to put that tech into the can itself, so it can reorder you bags (Simplehuman brand, of course) when you’re running low. It doesn’t seem like it wants to help you reorder groceries, though, as some smart trash cans are supposed to.
Simplehuman offers a five-year warranty on its sense can.
A voice-activated trash can sounds like a ridiculous product, but we actually found it to be pretty useful. It can be a little sensitive, but we’d rather have it open when we don’t need it than have it fail when our hands are full of greasy, grimy garbage. We don’t think there are any other voice-activated garbage cans, but iTouchless and Nine Stars both have motion-activated models. They should still be less germy but won’t help if your hands are full. There are a lot of moving parts to this trash can. Well, one, really, but it’s the part you really don’t want to fail. If it does stop responding to commands post-warranty, it will still work like an old-school trash can and should still look pretty fancy. For those already considering an expensive Simplehuman trash can, the voice-activated version isn’t that much pricier and could make your life a smidge easier.