This Japanese Trash Can Automatically Shutters Unpleasant Scents

04.29.24 | By
This Japanese Trash Can Automatically Shutters Unpleasant Scents

If you’ve ever visited Japan, you’ll notice something unusual: the absence of public trash cans. Born out of concerns of public safety and connected to a cultural commitment to communal responsibility, the act of disposing of one’s trash is taken with admirable seriousness. Japanese brand ZitA’s automated trash can is an extension of the Japanese attention to disposing of trash thoughtfully within a traditionally inspired design with a few high tech features.

A person in a dark robe uses a stylus on a digital tablet placed on a white podium, holding a flower in the other hand, with a dimly lit kitchen background.

The first thing that stands out is the ZitA Square’s attractive slatted exterior, a surface referencing traditional Japanese plaster walls known as ‘shikkui.’ Traditionally used across the exterior of storehouses and other structures, the plaster made from a mixture of slaked lime and powdered seashells results in surface exuding a warm organic texture. ZitA was not able to use a genuine shikkui treatment, but simulated the effect with a resin to deliver a similar satisfying surface to touch and a completely rectilinear form designed to tuck squarely into any corner or along any surface.

A person's hand placing a tea bag into a modern Zita-shaped black teapot on a dark surface.

A modern room featuring a sleek portable radiator in the foreground, with stylish ZitA chairs and a table in the background, illuminated by natural light.

In a country where toilets and washlets are commonly equipped with odor filtration systems built-in, it’s not surprising to discover a central feature of the ZitA Square is odor mitigation. While most trash cans do a serviceable job of containing offensive trash odors while closed, whether automated or manual, flap-style receptacle are apt to belch out smells each time they’re opened to add to the garbage.

Illustration showing ZitA odor control in a trash can: step 1- open lid; step 2- air and odor escape; step 3- lid closes; step 4-

ZitA aimed to solve this issue with an automated sensor-based shutter style lid that opens as fast as .7 second (adjustable up to a leisurely 5 seconds if you deem your trash just doesn’t stink). The new design is an evolution of a round receptacle predecessor with a similar – but not same – mechanism.

Two rectangular trash bins, one gray and one white, stand against a textured dark wall between shadowed square pillars.

To further reduce escaping odors, each ZitA Square is outfitted with an unscented deodorant strip running along the top interior of the bin to absorb garbage smells.

A recommended duration of 2 seconds was found to minimize the release of odor without the danger of catching hands in the act, while also reducing odor release by a supposed 60% according to their calculations (we admire their due diligence). Powered by either 4 or 8 AA batteries, the open/close operations are good for up to 15 months.

A hand dropping a crumpled paper into a trash can, with a scenic lake and greenery visible in the background through a square window.

In addition the unique shutter door opening, the automated sensor detection range can be adjusted for wider, narrower, and even higher range of hand waving sensitivity, a welcome option noting many automated movement-based sensors can go off undesirably while just passing by.

Air purifier standing in a modern room with sunlight casting shadows, next to decorative vases and a ZitA plant.

A small array of LED lights embedded within the ZitA SQUARE subtly illuminates with a slow pulse. The lights flash red when it’s time to replace the odor eliminator.

As someone who has owned a sensor-based kitchen garbage bin in the past, one looming concern about any automated device is durability. Sensor based garbage bins – like touchless soap dispensers – have a knack for becoming unintentional trash themselves. ZitA says their design was put under real-life stress test scenarios enduring a continuous cycle of 60,000 open/close tests, noting by their data the ZitA Square can handle trash duty for approximately 8 years (backed up by a 2-year warranty).

If true, the $221 ZitA Square might be worth taking a risk on as a crowdfunded design set to become available this August 2024.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at