A Big Appetite for Recycling

October 8, 2009

In May, Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) installed 10 BigBelly solar-powered trash compactor and recycling units after a successful 2007 pilot installation at 36th & Chestnut streets. Not just the average trash can, the BigBelly takes pride in being a more sustainable receptacle.

By using solar panels on top of the unit to power its compaction mechanism, the BigBelly is capable of holding up to four times as much trash as a regular trash can, eliminating the need for Facilities crews to make three or four trips a day to empty overflowing bins.

The BigBelly cans were installed at several high-traffic locations on Walnut and Spruce streets to provide the Penn community with public recycling bins along the campus perimeter while reducing trash pick-ups and vehicle emissions.

Each unit has an electronic “eye” that senses when trash reaches a level that requires compaction and visually notifies Facilities crews when it needs to be emptied with the indicator lights on the front of the bin (the light periodically flashes green and should be emptied when the light changes to yellow). Thanks to their compaction capabilities, the new BigBelly triplets will need to be emptied only once a day or every other day.

The units’ recycling bins will further help reduce overflows by diverting recyclables from the trash; in other words, one BigBelly triplet provides the equivalent capacity of 6-7 receptacles. Several BigBelly units were also installed in areas with existing steel triplets, allowing the older triplets to be relocated to on-campus locations in need of public recycling bins.

Beyond Penn’s campus, BigBelly solar compactors can also be found on the Drexel University campus and throughout the City of Philadelphia, where 500 units were installed last April.

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