Nov 23, 2014

Solar Trash Compacting

Location: Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, Washington, DC 20020, USA
BigBelly trash along the Anacostia River
I've also see numerous ones by GWU
Here's a beautiful trashcan manufactured by U.S. company BigBelly Solar. The company was founded in 2003 and recognized that cities were collecting either too often--a huge cost in trash pick up fees--or too little, resulting in overflowing trashcans.

Enter the BigBelly trash compactor. It is powered by the sun and stores its energy in a battery. An internal photo eye determines when trash has reached a certain level and begins compaction or transmits an alert that it is time for clean up. BigBelly can hold 5 times the amount of a normal street trash can, or about 180 gallons. CEO Barry Fougere claims that this translates to taking "seven to eight out of every 10 trash collection trips off the street". But can that actually save cities money?

According to a Spring 2013 University of Washington Evans School Review, Benefit-Cost Analysis of BigBelly Solar Trash Cans, with each unit costing about $4,000 and quinquennial battery replacements of $500, no. At the time of the report, the Net Present Value or “difference amount” between the cash inflows and cash outflows for the city of Seattle ranged from -$230,000 to -$1.6 million. Not a winning investment.

However, as fuel costs go up and the price per BigBelly unit goes down, this will become more viable. I expect the garbage needs of parks, beaches, amusement parks, and universities will be ever increasing along with competition in the field of trash compacting.

If you're interested in learning more about the motivation and numbers behind the company, watch this interview with CEO Barry Fougere.