Solar powered trash cans are among the newest tools being used by the City’s Sanitation Division to make Winston-Salem more environmentally kind.
“Big Belly” trash cans, named for their large capacity, compact the trash that is tossed into them, allowing them to hold up to five-times the amount of waste as a traditional trash can.
The cans let sanitation workers know how full they are electronically, sending out an email when it is time for them to be emptied. This means they are emptied much less than traditional public trash cans, according to the City, saving manpower hours, fuel and reducing dump truck emissions.
Most of the Big Belly units also feature a receptacle for recyclables like aluminum cans and foil, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles, steel cans, aerosol cans, corrugated cardboard and other paper products. The City contracts with Waste Management to process and market its recyclables.
The rash cans have been placed in high foot traffic, non-residential areas, including busy spots near the Benton Convention Center, the Clark Campbell Transportation Center and the Wells Fargo Center.
“What we’re trying to do is capture other recyclable materials that people have on their person. We’re talking about paper cups, we’re talking newspapers, we’re talking about people who have plastic bottles,” said Sanitation Division Deputy Director Randy Britton. “…We’re trying to capture all that stuff and keep it out of the landfill.”
Currently there are six Big Belly units that have replaced normal public trashcans in the city, including one donated by Waste Management in 2010 when the city started using them. They’ve reduced trash pick up from a nightly to every two to four weeks.
Britton said his department is still figuring how many of the trash cans it needs. He said the units, which are made by Massachusetts-based BigBelly Solar, cost $3,500 and save enough money to pay for themselves within a year and a half on average. According to BigBelly’s web site, more than 1,000 customers, including parks, transit authorities and cities across the country and abroad, are using the trash cans.
In addition to going greener, the City is working to increase its overall amount of recycling collection. Not only does recycling keep waste out of landfills, the process makes money for City coffers. Once items are collected, recyclables are taken to a local material recovery facility where they’re separated, prepared and sold to companies who will use them to make new products.
To encourage residents to recycle at home, the City once provided 18-gallon recycling bins. Last April, the bins were replaced by blue 96-gallon rollout carts that are picked up biweekly. Paper, plastic and glass products can all be placed into the carts. The bins required that each type of recyclable be separated. The carts still require preparation for some recyclables, such as rinsing out food waste from items and removing the caps from bottles.
Recycling Program Administrator Derek Owens said the new carts are a hit with city residents.
“Ever since we’ve implemented it in April city-wide it’s been doing great, and we’re continually getting requests from new residents that come into the city for new recycling services,” said Owens. “…Our participation has gone up and we’ve seen an increase in our tonnages of about 20 percent over what we’ve gotten in previous times.”
Owens said that the City also can provide recycling pick up for small businesses that don’t use dumpsters. Property owners and managers can also request the service for apartment complexes, condos and town homes.
Recyclable cardboard can be dropped off at many local fire stations and all recyclables are accepted at the Hanes Mill Road Landfill, 325 Hanes Mill Road, and at recycling centers in Kenersville and Pfafftown.
Last fiscal year, 10,665 tons of recyclables were collected in the city. Britton said local residents are currently recycling 20-25 percent of what they throw away. Britton said that he would like to see that number increase and for recyclable collections to one day surpass landfill collections.
For more information about recycling, visit www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/RecycleToday or call 336-72-EARTH (723-2784).