Solar Powered Trash Cans Save Cities Millions

According to BigBelly, the increased capacity of the cans reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. Photo: BigBelly Solar

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.

Read More
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Republic Uses Solar Panel Covers For Its Landfills
The Quest for Recycling

Feature image courtesy of elycefeliz

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Trey Granger
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Comments

  1. well i wanna knw the price of these trash cans if i will get many of them lets say 1000 trash cans

  2. Just curious as what would happen if someone stupidly tossed somethign they werent supposed to into it.

    I think the whole concept of this electric recycle can sounds like a good idea overall.

    I’m surprised it hasnt been installed in NYC as of yet.

  3. FABULOUS idea! I’ll bet it sparks a line of similar items. Hope to see them around, especially in big cities with lots of big ugly smelly diesel powered garbage trucks. Wonderful to get some of them off the road, plus remind people of the need to recycle, reduce, reuse.

  4. i would like to see something less expensive and simpler to make… so we can implement it everywhere as soon as possible- something that might even involve a little elbow grease… we could smash the trash ourselves. I could be easy to come up with a way to do in sanitarily.

  5. edited version of former post:

    “I would like to see something less expensive and simpler to make… so we can implement it everywhere as soon as possible- something that might even involve a little elbow grease… we could smash the trash ourselves! It could be easy to come up with a way to do it sanitarily.”

  6. I notice your write up says they are already deployed in “Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.” If you look at the picture you’ve used for the article, it’s in Portland. What, is Portland not as cool as those other metro areas? :P

  7. What do you bet that all those trash haulers are still on the payroll?

    We didn’t have recycling in our community until recently. We recycle now and I would estimate that 90% of our garbage goes into the recylcing bins. To me that is incredible. We don’t buy much so we don’t end up with a lot of trash.

  8. Solar powered compactor for recyclables is needed for home and small business use. Sign me up as a distributor.

  9. Hello Trey,

    Wow! This is an awesome technological advance! You’re article made it possible to learn of such
    an innovative item. This would be a good use of resources. It takes great ideas and inventors of this kind to keep us moving in the right direction. Thanks.

  10. Seems like I am the only one who is not 100% behind these.

    1) Great in a high traffic location where it actually will reduce haulage and labor, if that cost is then actually lowered (through attrition or renegotiated contracts)
    2) lousy solution regarding increasing recycling percentages – even with training and excellent signage people will throw recyleable items into the trash, and now not even the homeless can garbage pick to benefit themselves and the planet
    3) costs upfront? What about costs to maintain? Anytime you increase the tech approach to something that has a low-tech approach you create repair and maintenance hurdles.
    4) Also really bad if there is any opportunity to create composting options.

    In general I would suggest that we should be spending money and efforts on reducing (step one) then reusing (step two) then recycling (step three) and this does NONE of these.

  11. We would love to have these designed for recycling aluminum cans. This would make our operations more efficient since there would be no need to drive around to see if the bins need to be emptied. As others have said, this would be perfect in high traffic locations. Anyone interested in donating some of these designed for cans to Recycling for Food?

  12. Awesome idea that I’m glad to see actually implemented and not just some designer’s pipe dream.
    The final piece of the puzzle for these is a drainage pipe to the sewers so the can’s capacity isn’t hindered by half consumed beverages and such.

  13. The coming austerity, arriving on the tails of the double dip recession, and bearing in its deeper toughs the great depression, will do much more to teach the slovenly Americans manners – they simply won’t have the garbage to spread around like pigs! An astounding belt tightening accompanied by an extreme shortage of oil is about to befall the slovenly in America and they will not have the goods to pollute with to start with! They will lose weight due to the higher cost of food, and they will walk more due to the extremely high cost of oil! The cancer has already started in the gulf – jobs lost to oil barons seeking oil in desperation, and now “Fracking” destroying artisian structures that normally provide drinking water for humankind – just to get the natural gas that may be lurking there , or not? America needs Nuclear power desperately and will have to import “clean” reactors from Tsinghua University, these pebble bed reactors produce no weaponizable by products and are high efficiency, They produce smaller amounts of waste materials and more heat for a given amount of fuel. Then and only then can the insane destruction of the environment by the search for oil gas and coal be stopped and America saved.

  14. Imagine a trash can on a busy city street that automatically compacts whatâ€s inside to save space and limit the number of times it needs to be emptied. Letâ€s say this same trash can is powered by solar power and capable of sending a text message to city hall when itâ€s full and ready for collection.

  15. This kind of inventions needs to be implemented in the whole world. Imagine how many millions of dollars could we save annually in investing for this awesome trash cans.

    Also, take a look of how solar panel plays an important role for this invention. It is really useful in so many ways. Let us think of how we can divert our source of energy in our homes into a clean and renewable source of energy.

  16. Yeah.That’s good products.It let the city more advance and beautiful.
    Could I make a commerical?Our company(www.chinajinbao.cn) can do advertising trash can.

  17. I first saw these at the San Diego zoo and was suprised that the solar power could generate enough oomph to achieve any significant compaction. Regarding detrimental effects to recycling, I’d like to see a major city conduct a study exploring whether or not these compactors really reduce diversion percentages by discouraging the homeless from picking through the trash. Same goes for composting, I can’t imagine homeless digging through trash for items to take back to their compost pile. The issues with trying to achieve source separation will always exist regardless of the waste density, so I don’t see any problem with cutting down the resources needed to transport the waste.

  18. I am very much interested in knowing more of this very clever invention, such as materials it is made, handling, solar energy autonomy, maintenance, availability,prices, etc.

    Thank you

  19. It’s a very interesting idea. I just wonder how it works during the winter in cold climates. What happens when the solar panel is covered by snow for an extended perior of time?

  20. very interesting but what happens if there is a malfunction of some sort in the electronics. and could some of these electronics catch fire.

  21. are there any episodes w/ people trying to grab a FREE LUNCH out of the trash can while it’s doing it’s compacting thing !

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