Solar Powered Smart Trashcans: Recycle, Compost, and Compact (w/ Video)

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When it comes to waste management, Bill Gates may have the toilet of the future, but BigBelly Solar has futuristic trashcans of the present. The company is based out of Massachusetts, but has already introduced its smart trashcan technology in every state and more than 30 countries worldwide, so you may have seen these behemoth devices strewn across your city. TechnologyGuide got a closer look the connected trashcans at the Verizon Wireless Innovation center in Waltham, MA.


\"SmartBellyThe smart trash cans each feature a solar panel, which powers its motorcycle battery, and the company states the cans can go up to three weeks without sunlight. The trashcans feature a CDMA connection and users can access pertinent information at any time via an iPad app. Those managing the city waste are able to track which trashcans are full, update firmware, and manage aspects of the cans remotely. The app displays trashcans on a map using different colors; green means it doesn\’t need emptying, yellow indicates it’s close to capacity, and red represents a full trash can.


The trashcans compact trash, allowing for more trash storage than the average bin. The SmartBelly trash cans compact waste down to around 40 or 50 pounds, which is the most the bins can accommodate.

SmartBelly states that the cans could crush the even more trash down, but the waste would become too heavy for workers to lift regularly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states lifting anything over 50 pounds is a potential safety hazard for employees. The potential for compacting trash further could further increase productivity, but the company would have to come up with an effective way to pick up the heavier loads.


\"BigBigBelly Solar also states that the trash cans are designed so that cities can save on fuel and reduce their carbon foot print. Eliminating the guess work over which cans need to be emptied keeps employees from driving around the city checking each one. They can simply go to the spots they know they need to be at, based off the heat map, and call it a day.

While BigBelly cans take any old trash, there is also a dedicated recycling option as well, usually alongside the receptacle for regular trash. The sensors can also determine how often people are actually recycling versus just throwing things away in the regular bin. This can help towns monitor a town\’s environmental sustainability. Its design also ensures trash stays in the bin, rather than a traditional trash can, which can easily overflow, sending garbage out onto the street with a gust of wind.

There is also a SmartBelly Compost bin, a useful resource for those in the city who do not have the room to compost, but want to separate their compost trash from plastics, papers, and other waste.

As far as future plans for the SmartBelly trashcans, the company hopes to add on-board GPS capabilities and is also looking to extend the technology beyond waste management.

Matthew Volpi, Director of Product Marketing at BigBelly Solar states, “Basically, if there is a container that gets filled up and then needs to be emptied or collected, we want to monitor it and provide our back-end analytics to help those operations be more efficient.”



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