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Solar Trash Compactor

Vancouver’s Revival of the Solar Trash Compactor

August 18, 2008

Following in the footsteps of Southeast False Creek, Cambie Village is piloting 12 new and improved trash compactors.  Each BigBelly unit can hold five times the trash of a conventional trash bin of the same size and indicate when it’s full.

A benefit of solar trash compactors is that they only need to be emptied about once a week, as opposed to every night, thereby cutting down on labour costs and greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s fleet of garbage trucks.  And because they are solar powered, the compactors do not consume any energy from the grid.  The innovative design of the trash compactors, similar to a Canada Post mailbox, makes them inaccessible to birds, animals, and people, which will decrease scavenging but prevent binners from being able to retrieve recyclables to return for deposit.  The installation of racks on the sides of the bins for recyclables is on the list of modifications. 

The BigBelly solar compactors are an improvement on a model that was tested in Stanley Park two years ago, but abandoned by the Parks Board and removed because they were difficult to empty.  The new units will be monitored over the coming months to determine how much maintenance is required. 

They are performing well so far and there has been a noticeable decrease in the amount of litter on the sidewalks around the units.  According to a bank manager in Cambie Village there is “considerably less garbage littering the sidewalk than with the traditional can it replaced”.  The previous cans overflowed frequently, and people would “place their trash beside the garbage cans on the sidewalk”. 

The only potential obstacle in the widespread implementation of solar powered trash compactors in Vancouver is the cost.  At $3,500 each, which must be paid by neighbourhood business associations, it is hoped the pilot project will clearly demonstrate the potential savings through the decreased need for labour, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, creating an incentive for investment.