Solar-powered trash can installed at HBCH

BigBelly sits outside Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, with an empty stomach Oct. 28.

BigBelly, the first solar-powered trash compactor installed in the area, can collect 32 gallons of trash, compact the waste and consume 32 more gallons before automatically telephoning a Waste Management representative to be emptied.

Holmes Beach  City Commissioner Pat Morton, the city’s liaison to Waste Management, stands beside BigBelly and demonstrates the feeding process.

Morton opens a bin, where trash is dropped.

“When it’s full, it mushes it down to make room for more,” he says.

To the unfamiliar, BigBelly looks like a new trash container not yet stained with splashes of soda pop or smeared with ketchup.

But the container, which retails for about $8,000, is part of a new trend in municipal trash collection. The compactor more than doubles the amount of trash a can will hold, better protects contents from scavenging animals, more securely conceals odors and features an intelligent notification system so that a collection crew can be dispatched when the container is full.

All this saves money, fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, according to Waste Management.

BigBelly was a gift from Waste Management to Holmes Beach. The company also plans to give Anna Maria a BigBelly, probably to place at the Anna Maria City Pier.

“This is new for us in this market,” says Mike Bridges, the Island route manager for Waste Management.

Waste Management and the municipalities plan to see how the machines weather the barrier island elements — the sand, but especially the salt air.

“We’ll have to see,” Morton says, adding that he would like to see compactors installed to collect recyclables at beach accesses, as well as city parks.

Earlier this year, the city of Kissimmee installed 30 BigBelly solar-powered trash and recycling compactors in its downtown.

“There’s no doubt the BigBelly system will save a lot in terms of money and resources,” says Dave Derrick, Kissimmee public works director. “The city is pleased to provide the public with an efficient and convenient way to properly dispose of trash and recycle bottles and cans downtown.”

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