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BigBelly Solar: High-tech trash cans tell workers when they are full

February 22, 2012

St Thomas, Virgin Islands - Six new trash cans currently being installed in the territory accept aluminum cans for recycling and use the sun’s power to compact garbage.

The “BigBelly” solar compactor is a gleaming black unit with two compartments – one for cans and one for trash. The trash collection side has a solar panel on top that powers a compactor located inside the bin.

The solar powered trash compactors can be monitored remotely. When full, the cans can notify the V.I. Waste Management Authority allowing the trash to be collected less frequently and freeing up manpower and resources.

The Waste Management Authority’s Director of Environmental Programs Mario Leonard said he got the idea for the solar powered trash cans at a conference in Boston.

“I was walking around the city and saw these things,” he said. “I said, ‘Wow, we have got to have these in the Virgin Islands.’”

As it turned out, the manufacturers were showcasing the receptacles at the conference, and Leonard was able to begin the process of procuring them.

The compacted trash will save the authority money, and the aluminum can recycling will help keep the territory a little greener and benefit local schools, according to the Waste Management Authority. The cans will be taken to STS Trucking – a local company that pays for cans – and the funds will be donated to the elementary schools that participate in the “Don’t Trash the Cans” recycling contest, Leonard said.

On Tuesday, Modesto Carrasquillo, president of Clean City Corp., and his employee Jorge Rodriguez, were installing three units in Charlotte Amalie.

High-traffic street locations were chosen for maximum benefit, said Waste Management Authority spokeswoman Stella Saunders. One unit is on Veterans Drive in front of the Tommy Hilfiger store; one is on the corner of Veterans Drive and Tolbod Gade; and one is next to the Alvaro de Lugo Post Office on the eastern side facing Emancipation Garden.

Later this week, St. John will get one unit on the Cruz Bay ferry dock.

St. Croix will get two units: one on the Christiansted Boardwalk and another at the Verne Richards Memorial Park adjacent to the Ann Abramson Pier in Frederiksted.

The six units have been paid for by the agency, but the Waste Management Authority is seeking private sector partners to help purchase additional compactors, Saunders said.

The units have been approved by the Historic Preservation Commissions in both districts, Saunders said.

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