Your trash is speaking to you. If you would only listen to the refuse, you could be greener, healthier and better organized. Eugene, a $99 device unveiled this week at CES, is ready to become your garbage whisperer.
Due out later this year, Eugene keeps a record of what you throw away and then stores that data in the cloud, helping you create a shopping list, tracking what kind of food your family is eating and figuring out which refuse you can recycle.
How Eugene Works
At its core, Eugene is a Wi-Fi connected barcode scanner. You hang the device on a wall near your kitchen or bathroom trash can and then scan the UPC codes on products before you toss them out. Eugene reads these UPC codes and gives you an on-screen message, telling you whether you can recycle them or not.
According to Uzer, the company that makes Eugene, a lot of consumers have trouble figuring which products can go in the recycle bins. The scanner not only tells you whether a product can be recycled, but what parts of it can be saved. When I scanned an empty bag of diaper wipes, Eugene showed a message telling me that I could recycle the hard plastic clasp, but not the soft plastic packaging.
The scanner sends information about the product you've scanned to its cloud service. Then, with an app on your phone, you can see a list of items your family threw away. The app shows you how much waste you've recycled (it assumes that if it told you to recycle something, you did) so you can feel good about your contribution to the planet. Uzer says that a number of companies in France, where the device launches first, and in the U.S. are partnering with it to offer rewards for recycling.
Generating a Shopping List
Recycling may be good for the planet, but I doubt many people would buy a device just to help them figure out what they can put in the blue bin. Eugene is really most useful when it's helping you keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked.
The smartphone app not only shows a list of what products you threw away, but also lets you create a shopping list you can use to order online from popular retailers like Amazon or take with you to the supermarket. If your family uses Eugene, you will immediately know when you run out of breakfast cereal or toothpaste and need to buy more.
Unfortunately, a lot of food items — meat, vegetables and fruit for example — don't have UPC codes. The app lets you add these items to your list manually, but having to enter them seems like a waste of time.
You can also use Eugene's app to search the ingredients of food you consumed. For example, if you want to know how much gluten was in those crackers you ate, the software can tell you.
I got to spend a few minutes with Eugene here at the CES trade show and I was intrigued by its potential. The barcode scanner worked really well in my experience and even switched languages based on the product. When I scanned a box from a French product, the recycling message was written in French, but the text was English when I used packaging from an American item.
For such a low price, many families would probably be willing to add Eugene to their daily routine. The real question is whether they will be religious about scanning every box before they throw it away.
Correction: This article (and video) originally stated that Eugene will cost $19, but the price will actually be $99 ($79 at preorder).