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Big Belly Solar Compactors Crunch Downtown Trash

Bloomington sanitation workers had to empty the trashcans in front of Starbucks every single morning or the sidewalk would fill with litter by the afternoon. But, that was before the Big Belly solar compactor came to town.

Shelby Walker is the sanitation director for the city of Bloomington, and he says his department and locals are pleased with the performance of the machines so far.

“The Big Belly solar unit collects its energy through the top here, through the solar panel, then you put your trash in the front here. When the trash reaches a certain level inside, the compacter runs and compacts the trash into a receptacle in the bottom,“ Shelby explains.

Thanks to the 10 solar compactors around downtown, the city only has to bring it’s diesel trucks to the Starbuck’s storefront on Indiana Ave. every other day or so. Bloomington used federal stimulus money to purchase its first batch of the $4,000 machines.

Walker says in the long run the compactors will save money since city trash trucks, which only get 2.5 gallons per mile, won’t be making as many pickup runs.

“It’s certainly a green unit. When you consider what Big Belly does – she’s solar-operated, requires no other electricity than what it’s receiving from the sun, which there’s plenty of, and then, again, it lessens our carbon footprint, lessens our need to be downtown, it lessens the noise downtown, so it’s certainly a green solution to our trash concerns.”

The machines should last at least five years, but maybe up to 10 or more, according to Walker. He also hopes the city will be able to purchase more Big Belly solar compactors as funds become available.

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