BigBelly has big impact on Athens

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BigBelly trash system on Court St.

ATHENS, Ohio – The city of Athens has taken an initiative to clean up Court Street with new technology. The city installed 24 BigBelly trash-compacting systems to reduce trash pick ups and increase recycling by pedestrians in Uptown.

Mayor Steve Patterson said he started thinking of ideas to increase recycling in Uptown as soon as he took office. He said the main reason for bringing BigBellys to Uptown was that there were no recycling trash bins Uptown.

Mayor Steve Patterson talking about BigBelly’s impact on Athens during Wednesday’s press conference

What is BigBelly?

Solar panel on top of BigBelly trash bin that charges a 12 volt battery

BigBelly is a solar powered, rubbish-compacting bin, manufactured by U.S. company BigBelly Solar for use in public spaces. The bin was designed in 2003 to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The BigBelly holds 567 litres, up to eight times the amount of a normal trash thanks to a special compaction mechanism. The compaction mechanism is chain-driven, and runs on a standard 12 volt battery, kept charged by a solar panel located on top of the bin. A reserve battery lasts for approximately three weeks.

The Positives of BigBelly

Currently, there are 56 round open-top trash cans on Court Street. Those lidless bins are subject to having trash blown out of them on windy days. BigBelly eliminates that problem resulting in cleaner streets. In addition to that, Patterson said the city is saving money.

“If we can reduce the number of times the bins need to be emptied, there could be savings for the city in being able to renegotiate a contract with the trash hauler,” he said. “If we aren’t having to send stuff out to the landfill as often, there is savings to be had there.”

But Executive Director of Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers, Bruce Underwood said no workers will be displaced because of those savings.

“It really won’t affect them,” he said. “The size of the contract that we have with the city of Athens is rather large. We are running a seven-day-a-week operation to serve both the city and Ohio University’s needs, so from our perspective Uptown is such a small part of that contract.”

With BigBelly, the city has seen much more efficient clean-ups of the trash bins.

“Our drivers who go out and pick up the trash can use an app that tells them which ones need to be emptied, so that’s what creates a lot of efficiency,” Underwood said.

The Reactions

So far, BigBelly has had been well received by residents.

“Technology is always evolving so, when you don’t have to use typical trash cans and can use ones that hold eight times more the amount, it makes it things a lot better for the environment,” said Ohio University student, Kellen Becoats.

City officials are also backing the new trash and recycling bins.

“We’re all about it,” Underwood said. “Before they did not have any recycling bins on Court Street – I think it’s a really good idea to have that for pedestrian traffic Uptown; I think it’s long overdue.”

Moving Forward

With the BigBelly trash and recycling bins, pedestrians can now do what they have never been able to do before: recycle.  The hope is that all 56 of the round non-recycling trash bins around Uptown will be replaced by the high-tech receptacles.

“We hope to at the tail-end of Winter and beginning of Spring to start removing the round trash bins,” Patterson said. “We won’t remove all of them because we don’t have BigBelly everywhere. In time we would like to be able to on-board more BigBelly systems.”