Solar-Powered Trash Can Munches Garbage

By John Noel
|  Friday, Feb 25, 2011  |  Updated 8:37 AM EDT
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They run on solar energy and can hold up to three times the amount of garbage as a regular trash can.

They run on solar energy and can hold up to three times the amount of garbage as a regular trash can.

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The latest technology in garbage disposal can now be found on the street in one Brooklyn neighborhood.

It's called Big Belly, a solar-powered trash can that can hold at least three times the amount of garbage of a regular trash can the same size.

That's because the Big Belly has internal sensors that trigger a compactor inside the can when the garbage piles up.

One passerby in the environmentally-conscious Park Slope neighborhood declared it a "good idea."

"We definitely have to do something about the garbage we take out," he said. "It's just taking up too much room."

Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District bought six of the solar-powered cans, which go for $4,000 apiece, and placed them at high-traffic intersections along Fifth Avenue where regular trash cans used to overflow.

Store owners and pedestrians alike are relieved at the cans' potential to keep garbage in the bins and off the streets.

"Yes, it is very expensive, but it's also important to us and we hope it's worth the price of keeping Fifth Avenue looking cleaner and more inviting to both the residents and the consumers," one woman familiar with the project said.

The regular trash cans just don't suffice, at least one local store owner says. She said trash regularly overflows onto the street.

"And then it's going into the street and if it's not swept up the store owner or the homeowner or whoever gets a fine," the restaurant owner explained.

The city's Department of Sanitation reviewed the Big Belly solar compactor as a potential replacement for the familiar green garbage cans that dot the city, but turned it down, primarily due to the higher costs.

A regular New York City trash can costs $125 and the city currently has 25,000 of them at various intersections throughout the five boroughs. Outfitting the streets with all solar-powered cans would cost the city 32 times the amount currently spent on trash cans.

But the costly cans can be a saver, too. The city of Philadelphia has leased 500 of the solar-powered cans and reduced trash pickups from 17 times a week to five. It expects to save more than $1 million a year.

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