Monday, November 1, 2010

Virigina City Tries out Solar-Powered Trash Compactors

The city of Richmond is trying to make trash collection outside City Hall a little less wasteful.

As part of a fourto six-week pilot project, the city installed a solar-powered trash compactor and a recycling receptacle along the sidewalk to East Broad Street between Ninth and 10th streets. The units are on loan from Waste Management Inc.

If the experiment proves successful, the city could look to install similar units at various locations, said Sharon North, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

The compactors, manufactured by BigBelly Solar of Newton, Mass., are designed to be an energy-saving alternative to a standard municipal trashcan by holding five times as much garbage and by requiring less attention from workers and fewer visits from fuel-consuming garbage trucks.

BigBelly, which developed its first compactors in 2004, now has 7,000 units in 30 countries and 48 states, including ones at Virginia Commonwealth University, said Richard Kennelly, the firm's vice president of marketing.

In Philadelphia, the compactors have drawn praise as well as complaints, with critics questioning the units' $3,700 cost and their reliability, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Municipal trashcans can cost $100 or more.

With Mayor Dwight C. Jones pushing a variety of sustainability initiatives, Richmond officials had talked with BigBelly Solar about its machines last year.

"We're watching every penny at this point," North said. "The decision was made, 'Why don't we try them out for a period?'"

The compactors have a 32-gallon capacity and an internal sensor that triggers a compaction cycle when the unit fills to a certain level. The recycling receptacle handles about 48 gallons of bottles, cans and paper.

City officials expect to empty the compactor about every four days, and they'll check daily on the recycling receptacle.


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