Landscape Services tests compacting trash can

Jul 14th, 2010 | By | Category: Campus News, June 17

UNL’s push for greater sustainability has taken trash collection to a new level.

Landscape Services is testing a BigBelly solar-powered trash compactor on the Nebraska Union Plaza. The large, black refuse receptacle, located on the northwest corner of the plaza, is designed to reduce collection by holding more trash through compaction.

“We are testing the BigBelly compactor because it holds so much more trash than a traditional trash can,” said Eileen Bergt. “It should reduce the number of times we need to go back and empty it during the day. We hope it makes our operation more sustainable.”

An average campus trash bin collects 48 gallons of trash. Through compaction, the BigBelly holds between 180 to 220 gallons.

A photoreceptor on top of the can collects and stores solar power in a battery to power the BigBelly. Compaction is only done when sensors detect that trash has reached a certain level in the unit.

Landscape Services employees can also activate the compactor with a specialized controller. A display on the front of the can indicates if the trash needs to be removed.

Bergt said the BigBelly system has been in place for about three weeks. It has been emptied once.

“Normally we empty the trash cans on the plaza in the morning and someone needs to go back and do it again in the afternoon,” Bergt said. “We’ve positioned the BigBelly in a high traffic area to gauge its durability and advantages.”

Ted Weidner, assistant vice chancellor for Facilities Management and Planning, brought the BigBelly idea to campus after seeing it in use at a conference.

A primary concern is the expanse of odors the BigBelly system could produce as it allows trash to sit for an extended period of time. However, Bergt said reports online site fewer offensive smells cascading from the BigBelly versus an open-air trash can.

“Arizona State University uses these a lot,” Bergt said. “If they aren’t reporting offensive odor in Arizona heat, we should be OK in Nebraska. In New York, BigBelly customers report fewer odors in summer heat.”

Like UNL’s regular trash cans, the BigBelly system is made from recyclable materials. Due to compaction, the system does use thicker garbage bags. And, the BigBelly compactors are good for year-round use.

Bergt said the one BigBelly unit cost $4,000. A regular campus trash can costs about $500.

“They are a little cost prohibitive compared to our regular trash cans,” Bergt said. “That’s why we only purchased one. Our testing will also determine if it is worth the added investment.”

– By Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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