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UCSB has introduced a collection of new solar-pow- ered, waste-compacting BigBelly trashcans in an effort to encourage improved recycling habits while allowing the university to spend less time and money on frequent servicing for waste management.
Spearheaded by 2012 UCSB graduate Elan Frantz, a mechanical engineering major, the BigBelly project has brought 15 bins featuring internal self-powered waste compactors — driven by solar energy — and sensor systems that request waste pick-up when the bins are full. The updated garbage containers are gradually replacing the campus’s beige-colored “Big Bertha” waste bins that were recently modified into clusters separating waste into categories of “office pack,” “recyclables,” “compost” and “landfill.”
According Frantz, a BigBelly can store five times more waste than the old trashcans and their innovative notification feature has already helped to streamline maintenance.
“A wireless signal alerts staff when a bin is full so that a trip is only made to the bin when it requires servicing,” Frantz said. “The result of this has been a significant decrease in emptying trashcans from several times a day to once every several days. This frees up staff to maintain the campus in other important ways.”
While BigBelly trashcans decrease carbon emissions by limiting the number of visits made by garbage trucks, they also help safeguard public health and safety by more efficiently sealing in waste. With better sealed waste, street litter can be decreased and animals are less likely to enter bins and ingest harmful material, according to Frantz.
“Animals have been an issue with trash — they often dig through trash and leave heaps laying on the ground, which is left to blow away into the ocean,” Frantz said. “[With] the BigBelly, trash cannot escape and … cannot enter the bins and [animals] do not have to be euthanized.”
According to Facilities Management reuse and recycle intern Matthew O’Carroll, the campus is planning to separate and categorize waste in an effort to reduce time, costs and energy use. “The BigBelly units are spearheading the University’s movement towards a three-stream waste system at UCSB: commingled recycling, landfill and compost,” O’Carroll said. “The combination of these three units together will allow the UCSB community to dispose of all waste in the proper receptacles.” The BigBelly system has also improved environmental conditions on campus by significantly decreasing the need for waste services at the Courtyard Café, O’Carroll said.
“The Courtyard Café — a large producer of recyclable, landfill and organic waste — is now serviced twice a week instead of twice a day thanks to the units’ ability to compact and send notifications when they are full,” O’Carroll said.
Despite the units’ steep price, O’Carroll said the sleek, new trashcans are a worth- while investment for a more economically sound future.
“Although the upfront costs of these units are high in comparison to traditional waste receptacles, they have the ability to pay for themselves by reducing labor and fuel costs that traditional waste receptacles do not have,” O’Carroll said. “The next target areas for the introduction of BigBellies are at the main bus loop and by Campus Point at [UCSB’s Marine Science Institute].”
According to O’Carroll, Facilities Management, A.S. Recycling and the Zero Waste Committee are all providing support for the introduction of more waste bins while exploring additional options for reducing waste.