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Contributing writer: Dan Tennant

It's official: Smart trash cans are the steaming hot new gadget category of 2017. Available within the next few months, the $149 GeniCan is a scanner that attaches to the inside of your garbage and stores a list of your refuse in the cloud. Any consumable item you throw away, whether it be a box of rice or a banana, is added to a shopping list you can order from Amazon.

GeniCan works by reading the UPC codes on packaging as you throw it away. The device then identifies the products and adds them to your list. If a piece of trash has no UPC code, GeniCan prompts you to speak the name of the item and uses voice recognition to identify it. Considering that most fruits, vegetables and meats don't have bar codes, being able to add them by voice is critical. Eugene, a competing trash scanner that costs $99, requires you to manually enter UPC-less products into your phone.

You install GeniCan by sticking a powerful magnet to the outside of your garbage can and then placing it on the inside, where it snaps into place. That's another advantage over its competitor, which hangs on the wall near your waste bin, forcing you to scan items before you place them in the receptacle.

However, Eugene has a screen that displays the name of the product you've scanned and a message telling you whether you can recycle it. GeniCan doesn't offer recycling info, and its only readout is the shopping list on your phone.

As I watched, a GeniCan rep demonstrated how easy it is to scan an item by throwing away an empty bottle of Crisco and pausing for just a second to let the red light from the scanner read its UPC code. When he attempted to scan an orange, the device asked him what it was and he said "orange."

GeniCan lasts for months on a set of four AA batteries and uses a Wi-Fi radio to connect to your router and send data to the internet. You can configure it to order items automatically, thanks to its integration with Amazon Dash Replenishment Services. GeniCan reps said the company plans to add other online partners in the future besides Amazon. You may also share your shopping list with other people or carry it into the grocery store with you.

Though most people probably don’t want to spend $300 for trash scanning, you can use two or more GeniCans if you want to track garbage in multiple cans.

Scanning your garbage before you toss it may seem like an unnecessary step at first glance, but the benefits are significant, particularly if you want to use the automatic ordering feature.

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