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Picking up the garbage is expensive.  Public trash receptacles typically cost around $500-$1,800 each. But the real expense associated with waste collection is the cost of sending crews in trucks around to empty those containers and take the rubbish away. Garbage trucks get really, really bad mileage – typically under 3mpg.  A city may spend anywhere from $1,000-$4,000 each year on collection operations per receptacle.

Trash is piling up. Have you noticed the ever increasing wall of trash lining city streets, while walking to school, work, or even just a day in the park? Or trash cans that are so full that the garbage is overflowing? Citizens in developed countries throw away an average of about 10 pounds of trash a day.

The folks at BigBelly Solar may have the answer.  They created a garbage can with a built-in compactor. And get this, it’s powered by solar panels. Very cool. It’s also has an alert system that notifies the sanitation mucky-mucks when the unit is filled up.

Each BigBelly compactor can hold up to five times the volume of ordinary trash receptacles, reducing collection demand up to 80% and eliminating four out of five collection trips, saving time and money on gas, as well as preventing those overflowing garbage cans you often see (especially here in New York City). By eliminating the demand for collection by garbage trucks and using solar power trash cans to compact trash, the BigBelly system can cut CO2 and other vehicle exhaust emissions by as much as 80%. Companion recycling bins can also be integrated with the trash compactors.

The BigBelly Solar program pays back pretty quickly.  It’s been successful in cities, parks, beaches, zoos, arenas, and college and university campuses in 48 states and 30 countries.

Who would ever think that a garbage can could be a fuel saving device? It seems that BigBelly has created a real game changer in the way we look at waste management. It’s something that everyone should be thinking about.  What can you do as a consumer in your community? Our world is changing and the environment needs our help.  Step up and make some noise about this. Seriously. Reach to your local politicians, school and office sustainability managers.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.