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Solar-powered trash cans hit Springfield streets last week

Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD They look more like a mail box than a garbage can, with pull doors that allow the trash to go in but not come out.

There's a secret, though, that's not apparent to the casual passerby: this trash can has a compactor powered by the sun through its photovoltaic cells and can hold four to five times the amount of trash. The results include a cleaner street area around the can and a reduction in labor and fuel costs in emptying the can.

Springfield now has two of the BigBelly trash cans, thanks to a grant from the Renewable Energy Trust through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Peter Graczykowski, the administrative services director for the city's Department of Public Works (DPW), said.

Renewable Energy Trust Director Warren Leon said, "These Massachusetts-manufactured solar trash compactors are a great way for communities to introduce the benefits of solar electricity to citizens who may not be familiar with the technology. The Trust is pleased to support the city of Springfield in its clean energy efforts."

Seahorse Power makes them here in Massachusetts. On the company's Web site, the manufacturer claims the trash cans' "increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut related fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent." One can compresses and holds up to 150 gallons of trash.

The cans, which are valued at $3,500 each, are located at City Hall and across Court Street in the park. The trash bags inside are the only material cost to the new trash cans. Those sites were chosen, he said, so City Hall maintenance personnel could easily watch and service the cans.

Graczykowski said the cans are on a yearlong trial. He said DPW officials want to see how the boxes fare against a New England winter and whether their mechanism can withstand the normal use an urban environment presents.