Big Bellies: Taking A Big Bite Out of Trash



This past August, The City of Ventura Environmental Sustainability Division, in partnership with the Downtown Ventura Partners (DVP),  installed 30 Big Belly trash and recycling bins. These containers are state-of-the-art, using solar power to self-compact trash, which reduces the amount of necessary pick-ups, saving money. These bins provide easy recycling at each trash container too. This will help Ventura to divert even more recyclables from the landfill, encourage public recycling, and eliminate unsightly scavenging of recyclables.


How do the Big Bellies Work?

These Big Belly Bins hold about 150 gallons of trash — five times the volume of an ordinary trashcan.  Recyclables go in one receptacle and trash goes into the other.  Each bin clearly indicates what goes where in case you forget.

“The solar panels located on top of the Big Bellies, absorb the sun’s energy and then trickle charge a battery located inside the machine,” states Joe Albrecht, Sales Director, Big Belly Solar, Inc., “The trash compacter has two photo eyes which produce a beam.  When the trash inside the unit breaks that beam, it sends a signal to the machine that it needs to run a compaction. The Big Belly uses 1,200 pounds of force to compress the trash. Then, when the bin is full, it has built in software that alerts service crew as to which bin is full and needs to be emptied.”

Founder and President of BigBelly Solar, Jim Poss, developed the idea for Big Bellies after seeing overflowing trash bins lining the streets of Boston while attending graduate school. He felt that if trash bins could hold more trash (and if the trash was able to be compacted using solar power), it would be a great way to eliminate the problem of trash overflow as well as be sustainable.

Big Bellies have since been taking a big bite out of trash in cities like New York and Philadelphia. In fact, they are located in 50 states across the country as well as Canada and Europe. In Southern California, they’re located in such cities as Santa Monica, Pasadena, Glendale, West Covina, Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles, among others.

“Ventura is currently at a 74% diversion rate,” added City of Environmental Specialist Courtney Lindberg. “The new state mandate AB341 introduces an increased diversion rate from the previous goal of 50% to a more aggressive a 75% by 2020. We’ll definitely be able to reach our target. These trash compactors cost a little more than the average trash can, but they will actually help the City save money. By using non-general fund AB939 money to purchase the Big Bellies, we are directly saving the City money to their general fund by significantly reducing the trash service levels downtown.“

These impressive energy savers, which hold five times (150 gallon capacity) the amount of a normal, 32-gallon trash bin, will help reduce trash pick-up service to once a week vs. 5 times a week. They’re also expected to help cut greenhouse gas emissions as a result of fewer pick-ups.

“The past several years, the City of Ventura has been working on a number of beautification efforts,” said City Councilmember Christy Weir. “We’ve partnered with Downtown Ventura Partners on these new Big Bellies, because not only do they help us save on trash collection, they allow for advertisement panels to be used for public services messages. It’s a win-win-win- all they way around.”

“Over the years with the open trash cans, folks dig through the cans and trash gets scattered everywhere,” said Executive Director of the Downtown Ventura Partners, Kevin Clerici. “With the Big Bellies,  all trash and recycling will remain secure  vs. scattered on the street. We’ll also have our team of Clean and Safe Ambassadors monitoring the bins on regular basis. Another benefit of the Big Bellies is that they will curb the number of times large trash trucks will be traveling on our city streets. It’s just a fantastic project.”

Every person can make a difference when it comes to reducing trash in our overcrowded landfills.  So, the next time you’re around town and you’ve got something to recycle, look for these NEW Big Bellies!

-Maryann Ridini Spencer



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