Imagine a trash can on a busy city street that automatically compacts what’s inside to save space and limit the number of times it needs to be emptied. Let’s say this same trash can is powered by solar power and capable of sending a text message to city hall when it’s full and ready for collection.
Enter the BigBelly Solar Trash Can, which is already being utilized in cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
BigBelly cans are able to reduce the size of the trash inside by 80 percent, and when the trash is compacted, the cans are capable of holding 150 gallons of waste. This means fewer scheduled collection times, which reduces fuel use and air pollution from garbage trucks.
In the case of Philadelphia, the city was able to replace 700 downtown trash cans with 500 BigBelly cans and 210 companion recycling units (attachments that allow for the collection of recyclables like paper and plastic bottles) in August of last year.
With the new system, weekly collection trips have dropped from 17 to five, translating into a savings of 70 percent – or $13 million over the next 10 years.
The power to compress all that waste comes from a 12-volt battery that is charged daily using a solar panel. The cans contain wireless devices that allow them to communicate with waste collectors.
The company partnered with Waste Management to increase its footprint in the trash collection industry. It is also being marketed for college campuses, with Arizona State University and Georgetown University among its current customers.