Solar Trash Compactor Hits the Streets

Solar Trash Compactor Hits the Streets
BigBelly Solar Company, based out of Needham, Massachusetts, built a solar-powered trash compactor that can hold up to five times as much trash as a similarly sized regular trash receptacle. The BigBelly consumes less than 5 watts per day and reduces the need for collection of used bags, eliminating up to 80% of the fuel consumption and the greenhouse gases generated by the standard collection process.





Initially deployed in Vail, Colorado in 2004, the BigBelly trash compactor is starting to make major inroads into the public sector of major cities across the United States. The sleek black front opening units take approximately the same space as regular trash cans (although they are a bit taller than most open top receptacles) and are ADA compliant for use by wheelchair bound individuals. They fully seal when closed, keeping pests and weather out and partially blocking odors from escaping.

Weighing in at 300 pounds and holding 150 gallons of refuse in a 32 gallon storage bin, the main unit body is made of recycled plastic. The BigBelly runs entirely from solar power even on rainy or cloudy days; as long as the unit has a line of sight to open sky it will work. Its power consumption is so low you could toast a slice of bread on the energy it consumes in a day and make a pot of coffee from the power used in a week. It can run for eight years on the energy it takes a garbage truck to travel one mile. The BigBelly can also be adopted for indoor use with a 120 volt AC adapter.

BigBelly trash compactors are currently in use at Fenway Park, Walden Pond, Harvard University, inside the Alamo, in the Baltimore Inner Harbor area, and in other high traffic tourist and urban areas. The city of Philadelphia just launched a pilot program introducing BigBelly cans in select portions of the Historical and downtown districts. While primarily deployed throughout the United States, units are in use in ten other countries as well.

The Future of Things has covered other gadgets and products using solar power including the Pebble solar food heater, the Zephyr solar-powered unmanned aircraft, and a solar tree that collects energy during the day and uses it to power lights at night.

More information on the BigBelly can be found on the company’s website.

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About the author

Janice Karin

Janice Karin has a B.A in physics from the University of Chicago and a M.S. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to extensive experience as a technical writer focused on development tools, databases, and APIs, Janice has worked as a freelance reporter, editor, and reviewer with contributions to a variety of technology websites. One of her primary focuses has been on PDAs and mobile devices, but she is interested in many other areas of science and technology.

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