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No gift horse: Belmont gets solar-powered trash bins

Posted by Derek McLean  August 5, 2011 06:10 PM

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Belmont will soon be getting cleaner, while possibly saving money. The town has received four BigBelly Solar waste collection containers from an anonymous donor.

Newton-based BigBelly Solar builds solar-powered waste containers that compact trash on site, dramatically reducing how often they must be picked up, according the firm’s website.

Each waste collection system is valued at $4,000, said Peter Castanino, Belmont’s Director of Public Works. The containers will be placed in locations around the town, where the current containers tend to overflow with trash.

“These containers hold up to four to five times more trash than a regular container,” said Castanino. “The containers look like a mailbox. They minimize litter from blowing around.”

Castanino said the containers are battery operated and are constantly being charged by solar energy. There is a sensor in the containers that checks the amount of trash collected. Once the trash buildup reaches a certain level, a compactor will automatically run, maximizing its storage ability.

The Department of Public Works can monitor the amount of trash build up in each container online.

“Because they compact trash you do not need to pay as much money for collecting and transporting the trash,” said Thomas Younger, Belmont Town Administrator. “You see trash cans that are out there with overflow. You get trash on the streets and that doesn’t look as good.”

Castanino said the town will do a study for nine to 12 months after the four are installed, analyzing each container’s rate of collection and success.

If the containers do prove to be successful in Belmont, the town could look to purchase more BigBelly Solar containers in the future. “We don’t know how much they will save. We will monitor how much pick up there will be n that time,” said Castanino. “The trust is that over time, they will pay for themselves with the saved cost of trash collection and transportation.”

Potential locations for the containers include parks and the outside of coffee shops and convenience stores.

The Department of Public Works expects to have the containers installed within the next one or two months.

The containers will replace four of 32 trash containers around town. Last year, in an effort to reduce trash pickup, the town reduced the number of trash containers around its business areas from 52 to 32. “We had too much collection,” said Castanino. “By reducing the amount of containers, the town saved around $20,000 last year on collection and disposal costs.”

The containers may look familiar to residents after they are installed. There are numerous BigBelly Solar containers in cities such as Boston and Philadelphia.

“This could provide good savings for us in cost and aesthetics,” said Younger. “We have a lot of trash and we have these, lets utilize them.”

Derek McLean can be reached at

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