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LONDON (Reuters) - A London-based business has reinvented the rubbish bin, making its new recycling containers bomb-proof and sticking LCD screens on the side to tell Londoners about market moves and breaking news.
Renew, a brainchild of two former London School of Economics students, will install 100 bomb-proof bins in London's financial district before the Olympics kick off in July.
"There has hardly been any innovation in this space. Rubbish bins have just been a box with a hole," Kaveh Memari, CEO of Renew, told Reuters.
Historically City of London authorities have been reluctant to place rubbish bins in busy areas and near London Underground stations, mainly because of bomb threats from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) guerrilla group.
In recent years, Londoners have also become accustomed to being handed free newspapers and magazines on their way to work, making recycling a greater priority.
Memari, a businessman who appears more like a Silicon valley entrepreneur in trendy jeans, vintage glasses and sporting Apple's ultra thin MacBook Air in his bag, said Renew's recycling bins will be much more than just a waste management solution.
"We don't think this is just solving issues with recycling or bins. Yes, it helps to go green and it helps to be safe, but this is also about usefulness," said Memari, who recently received funding from Qatar Islamic Bank to complete the latter stage of the project.
One bin is outside the entrance to Aldgate underground station in east London, scene of one of the suicide bomb attacks on London's rail system on July 7, 2005 which killed 52 people.
"One big criticism from the 7/7 attacks was lack of communication," Memari said. "The phone networks were down and there was nothing coming to people. But we could turn our screens into an emergency broadcast channel."
This idea was echoed by a City of London Corporation report which said the Renew screens could be particularly useful during the Olympics.
"They could provide the City with additional channels of communication, i.e. congestion at train or tube stations or information from the City or City of London Police in the event of emergency," the report said.
One Renew recycle bin in London's Gresham Street, an area which houses several investment banking businesses, was showing the latest headline on the racism case against former England soccer captain John Terry, followed by infographics on the biggest risers and fallers in the FTSE 100 Index.
A few seconds later the screen flicked over to display live information about disruptions on the London Underground, showing the Victoria Line had minor delays. The next time the screen changed, it showed there were 34 pay-and-go bicycles to rent at a docking station in nearby Cheapside.
"We actually tell you how many bikes are around the corner," said Memari. "We want to help you to get home easily."
The bins cost 25,000 pounds ($40,000) each, partly because they are made of special material which is four times stronger than steel. Renew pays for the bins and their maintenance, selling access on the LCD panels to content providers.
Memari said Renew has signed a memorandum of understanding with Manhattan authorities, which will see a solitary bin installed in front of the New York Stock Exchange to trial the project in the United States.
The company is also in talks with Singaporean authorities and officials from Japan.
"In Japan their concern was about earthquakes," Memari said. "Their security concerns were also different. They were more concerned with gas attack protection and bio-nuclear detection."
Reporting By Drazen Jorgic