Thinking Tech

New York City's trash problem to get solar-powered fix

New York City's trash problem to get solar-powered fix

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Local community groups are doing their part to clean up the New York city's image by replacing overflowing trash cans with new self-compacting ones.

Forget skyscrapers and taxicabs, New York city can just as easily be known for its abundance of overflowing trash cans. However, local community groups are doing their part to clean up the city's image by replacing such eyesores with a high-tech solution.

The Fifth Avenue and North Flatbush Business Improvement Districts have placed orders for 26 self-compacting trash bins, which will be put to use at various street corners in Brooklyn's Park Slope and Flatbush neighborhoods. The solar-powered receptacles, developed by Big Belly Solar, are equipped with sensors that starts the compacting process the moment garbage starts to pile up, allowing it to hold three times more waste. It can also alert sanitation workers whenever it needs to be emptied. And when fully charged, the eco-friendly bins can operate for three days without sunlight.

Park Slope had six big bellies installed a couple weeks ago and the reaction from residents has been quite favorable-- although the technology isn't without it's detractors.

According to The Brooklyn Paper:

Oscar the Grouch isn’t the only fan. Local business owners especially like the cans because it will help eliminate garbage that blows in front of their shop, resulting in tickets.

“It’s an excellent idea,” said Linda Bugliese, co-owner of Bagel World at Fourth Street across from Washington (formerly J.J. Byrne) Park. “In the summertime, the streets are so dirty, you can see the trash rolling down the street. You don’t want your community to look like that.”

In addition to cleanliness, the cans also require fewer trash pickups, which reduces Sanitation truck emissions.

“The BID wants to go as green as possible, and these are the best,” said Greg Murjani, the legendary Mr. Rubbish, who extolled the numerous benefits of Big Belly as he installed the cans across Park Slope on Tuesday.

But not everyone is impressed by the Jetsonian measures.

“Did you ever look at what the public puts into these baskets?” said Harry Nespoli, President of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association. “They put in car batteries, large cardboard boxes, all kinds of stuff. I don’t think the compactor will make any difference.”

New York City officials had once considered replacing trash cans with the solar compactor but ultimately decided against it, citing that the $3,000 to $4,000 per unit price was too costly to be feasible.

Despite this, there is some indication that the technology can eventually turn out to be a money-saver. Last year, Philadelphia swapped out 500 trash cans with Big Bellies, a move that resulted in fewer garbage pick-ups and an estimated savings of $1 million in sanitation costs.

Photo: Big Belly Solar

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure