By Phillip Poupore —
Pittsburgh is the latest in a line of cities to begin using “Bigbelly” solar-powered trash compactors.
The “Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership” received 10 of these specially designed compactors through a grant from the Alcoa Foundation with hopes of limiting the amount of trash removal by PDP employees.
“The potential benefits of recycling are limitless and what better place to continue our support for “Big Belly’s” innovative compactors than the great city where Alcoa was founded more than 125 years ago,” said Tricia Napor, Alcoa’s director of environmental programs. “With recycling you can put a used aluminum can back on the shelf in 60 days with only five percent of the energy it takes to make a new can. And because aluminum is infinitely recyclable, there is literally no end to the payback.”
“Bigbelly” was created in 2003 with the goal of changing the waste collection landscape. According to the company’s website many cities were collecting trash too often, which led to a waste of resources and increased CO2 emissions. On the other hand, some cities were not responding quickly enough, which led to trash cans overflowing and littering the environment.
The PDP placed the compactors, which look like steel crates with one side for trash and the other for recyclables, in various locations throughout Downtown that had heavy pedestrian traffic. This includes sections of Smithfield and Wood streets. These compactors accept trash as well as recyclables including aluminum, plastic and paper.
What makes these machines so special is that they are solar-powered. The units crush trash without electric power or direct sunlight; ambient light is all the machines need.
Since the machines compact the trash themselves, less trips are needed to remove the trash, which results in less vehicle emissions, less wear and tear on trucks and less trash removal by PDP clean team members. According to the site the compactors can hold between 50 and 150 gallons.
Another feature of the compactors is that they know when full capacity is being reached. According to Leigh White, vice president of marketing and communications for the PDP, each unit has a sensor that will alert clean team members when the machines need emptied.