Technology Spotlight: BigBelly Trash Compactors

bigbellyIn April of 2009 Mayor Michael Nutter announced an initiative called Greenworks Philadelphia, a plan to make Philadelphia America’s ‘greenest’ city by 2015. As part of this program, 500 new technologically-advanced trash compactors were installed throughout Center City that same month. Known as the “BigBelly”, these new trash compactors promise to help the city go ‘green’ and save some of it as well. The $2.2 million project was funded by a state recycling grant and is expected to save the city $875,000 per year.

The trash compactors are solar powered and no additional wiring or electrical connections are required, allowing for a quick and easy installation. Direct sunlight is not required to charge the small battery in the unit which stores power for use in inclement weather and at night. An optical sensor inside the cans initiates the compaction process. When almost full, an indicator light turns yellow and a wireless alert, similar to a text message, notifies a central server computer that pickup is required. When the can is full, a red indicator light is illuminated. An ‘inner bin’ is capable of holding trash during the compaction process and after the unit is full to prevent litter.

The units are capable of storing up to 200 gallons of trash, opposed to the 55 gallon limit of the old wire baskets. This increased efficiency will reduce trash collections from 17 times per week to 5, saving fuel costs and emissions from collection vehicles.

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