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Solar-powered trash receptacles not just a bunch of garbage

By Ann Knoedler

Until the city of Duluth issued a request for bids for solar-powered trash receptacles, I had no idea such a thing existed.

Two Solar Powered Trash/Recycling Kiosks, Duluth, St. Louis County, Minn.

I know now that I’m just out of the loop, because they are showing up everywhere: Iowa, Duluth, Philadelphia, Chicago, Europe, national parks, city parks, zoos, universities, and more.

It will be interesting to see how competitive the bids come out on Tuesday because in my Google searches the only company I could find that makes and sells them is BigBelly Solar from Newton, Mass. The company claims to have invented the world’s first and only solar powered cordless trash compaction system, and 100 percent made in America. Although I did find a WasteManagement site that sells its own receptacles, but it’s powered by BigBelly Solar.

These 21st century trash receptacles are catching on mainly because of the effect they have on the customers’ bottom line — the considerable savings realized in garbage collection budgets. Simply put, because of the compaction process, these high-tech garbage cans hold more trash, thereby cutting way back on the manpower and time required to collect it.

The motor-driven compactors inside each trash receptacle, powered by photoelectric panels, flatten the garbage into compact bricks, making room for more garbage, until the container is filled up with these bricks. Once capacity is reached, a signal goes out to the collection department to come and empty it.

There is also an environmental aspect to this product (as there always is with garbage), but in this case it’s a good thing. The trash doesn’t overflow, squirrels and birds are denied access to the contents, and the single-stream recycling containers that accompany the solar trash compactors promote more efficient recycling efforts.

The versatility of solar power applications is evident with this very cool invention.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She wants a solar-powered trash compactor for around her desk.

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