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Fox25 News: Talking Trash & Energy Efficient Clean-Up with BigBelly Solar

April 19, 2011

Boston, MA - Fox25 News reporter Cindy Fitzgibbon speaks with Richard Kennelly, BigBelly Solar’s VP of marketing, about how the BigBelly intelligent waste collection system is helping the environment and saving municipalities millions in trash collection costs.

Here’s how the interview went:

CF: Well they are eliminating the waste in waste collection one trash can at a time.  I’m talking about BigBelly Solar.  You’re probably going to recognize them.  They are a local company with a worldwide reach, now just 7 years old with customers in 46 states and 30 countries.  Joining us this morning, the vice president of marketing for BigBelly Solar, this is Richard Kennelly. Good morning!

RK: Good morning!

CF: We’re holding onto our trash.

RK: That’s right.

CF: We’ve got recyclables and trash, and I think a lot of people are going, “Hey, I’ve seen these before,” because they’re all over aren’t they?

RK: They absolutely are. And we’re now actually in all 50 states, so we have to update that.

CF: Wow, congratulations!

RK: Thank you! And coming up on our 10,000th unit — and we’re going to keep on going past that.

CF: Wow, well this is exciting.  Let’s just explain to people how these work. They are not much larger than a regular trash can.

RK: Exactly.

CF: But they can hold 5 times the amount of trash than a typical one can.

RK: That’s exactly right.  From the user point of view, you just take your trash — it goes into the trash bin like so. It falls down into a bin on the inside, and then when the trash gets the top of this bin on the inside here, it breaks an electric eye beam. At that point it triggers a compaction cycle automatically.  That’s what makes room for more trash. I can do that manually here just to show people what it looks like. Essentially this is a ram with a flat steel plate, and it’s kind of like stomping down on the trash — except it keeps your shoes a lot cleaner.   That’s about 1,250 lbs of pressure, pushing the trash into this bin.  That way you can fit about 5 times as much as a normal can, as you said, into this one.  And why that’s important is, instead of picking up the trash say 5 times a week , you can come once a week. The main cost in trash collection isn’t the cost of a container, it’s the cost of sending trucks around to pick up that trash and take it to the landfill, or the compost or the transfer station.

CF: Well and that’s hugely important with these because they’re cost efficient, but they’re energy efficient as well.  Of course Earth Day is Friday, so that’s kind of why we’re showing you this.  And what’s neat about this is that solar panel on top.

RK: That’s right, exactly.  So essentially the BigBelly system includes solar-powered, onsite compaction. Solar means you don’t have to plug it in.  It’s completely wireless.

CF: 100% of its energy from the sun. Right?

RK: That’s exactly right.  And it doesn’t even need direct sunlight.  It’s happy on cloudy days, it’s happy in the shade of a building.

CF: That’s good.  They work in all over the world in different climates right?

RK: Exactly, we have them up in Alaska and Saskatchewan, as well as sunny places like Phoenix and L.A.  And days like today it’s still happy.

CF: Yeah exactly.

RK: Then we have combined that with onsite separation of recyclables.

CF: And this came along later.

RK: Right — we always offered it, but most municipalities don’t have curb-side recycling.  The reason is it’s very expensive — not to get a container, but to hire another contract of trucks to pick up the recycling.

CF: So here we go … put it in here.

RK: This one’s configured for “single stream” — for bottles, cans and paper commingled.  We can configure it for just bottles and cans… Actually in Halifax, Nova Scotia there are four of these in a row for bottles and cans, paper, compost, and non-compostable non-recyclable trash.

CF: Wow, that’s amazing.  We’re running out of time so I want to get to the newer aspect of what you guys are doing, and it’s kind of a wireless monitoring system.

RK: Exactly, that’s the third part.  Inside each BigBelly is essentially a cell phone that sends a text message when it needs to be picked up, and that goes to a central server.  Then the owner or operator can log in from any Internet-connected device, and see the status of all the machines in real time, as well as historic collection data.  Why that’s important is you can really optimize the efficiency of the pick up, saving as much money as possible.  You’re not picking up when they’re too empty — which means you’re picking up air — or too full, which means they’re overflowing. You get it at that “baby bear” just-right level, and that means you’re maximizing the efficiency and the cost savings.

CF: Oh, well it is amazing how these work, and how much energy they save and how little they actually use to operate.

Pretty amazing. I think one my favorite statistics on your website was the operational energy is equivalent over 8 years for a garbage truck to go one mile.

RK: That’s right.  Garbage trucks get about 2 or 3 miles to the gallon.  They’re very expensive.  And the nice thing is, aside from that, the human resource too: in Philadelphia they’re saving almost a million dollars a year because they could take two-thirds of the workers from trash collection to staff a recycling program. By getting the recycling out of the trash you save a lot of money on disposal, as well it’s good for the environment.

CF: It’s wonderful for the environment.  Richard, thank you so much.  Tell people your website.

RK: Thank you Cindy.  It’s BigBellySolar.com.

CF: BigBellySolar.com: Originally started in Needham and now — worldwide.  Thank you so much.

Watch the Video

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