This is one of those objects where I can recognize the individual desire for it, but at the same time it speaks of a systemic problem in our society that we're not addressing. So I have mixed feelings.
The object in question is Petal, a garbage can designed to freeze your trash. The product, designed by New York designer Scott Henderson, claims that for less than $1/month in electricity costs, the can will "quickly and cost-effectively freeze potentially hazardous and noxious waste so it doesn't spread germs and stink up your home."
- Eliminating the "ick-factor": Dispose of dirty diapers, food scraps, adult incontinence briefs, feminine hygiene products, pet waste, and anything else that stinks with the knowledge that your home environment will remain fresh and clean.
- Reducing the Nuisances of Composting: Saving food scraps for compost should be a universal practice. Period. Petal easily transitions you to saving food scraps by eliminating the nuisances of fruit flies, rodents, pet-tampering, 'garbage juice', and foul-odors. If they can't smell it, they can't find it. For curious toddlers, the child lock does the trick.
- Stopping the Spread of Disease and Microbial Threats: Freezing harmful bacteria and viruses renders them inert without breeding bacterial resistance (super germs). Petal also enables you to quarantine discarded masks, gloves, and medical waste with ease and peace of mind.
My first issue with these proposed use cases is with the food scraps and composting. If this device was solely designed to freeze food scraps for a later composting cycle, sure, I see the wisdom. But doesn't mixing it in with the other garbage mentioned above obviate the possibility of composting?
The second issue I have is the "stopping the spread of disease and microbial threats" part. How many of us, in a domestic situation, are disposing of medical waste? And how many people do you know that have fallen ill from merely handling household garbage? I get that we live in COVID times, and I wear a mask and wash my hands like I'm supposed to; but this part of the product pitch strikes me as fear-mongering.
My third issue: I understand that soiled diapers, used tampons and many types of garbage stink. But I feel like we've solved these problems by placing lids on garbage cans. Yes, when you open the lid, you sometimes catch a nasty whiff; does that warrant creating yet another object that we must plug into the wall, and one that contains refrigerant (okay, "environmentally sustainable refrigerant") to boot? I'd argue that roughly once a day, all of us--scientists, artists, finicky designers--go to the bathroom and produce what is widely considered the most unpleasant smell in the world. But we've recognized that this is what our body produces and we've learned to deal with it.
The overarching systemic problem I'm referring to is that our society produces a lot of garbage, and some of it stinks, and I'm not sure we should be inuring ourselves to that. At least with the food, we should be addressing that by either generating less food scraps or developing widespread and universally-available composting systems.
However, in favor of this object: I get that some things, we don't need to smell. I recently listened to a radio show where the host recounted spending her teen years caring for her mother, who was paralyzed. She said the house constantly smelled of piss; her mother's diapers piled up in bins until trash day, and the smell pervaded the house.
Similarly, I'm childless and don't have to deal with diapers, and even when I lived in an area where I had to bag my dogs' defecations, I never had to bring it back inside my house. For those that live in these situations, I see the value of Petal.