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11/30/2016 08:15 AM

Ecofriendly Trashcans Deployed in Madison

The new Big Belly trash compactor and recycling units are scattered around downtown. The units operate by solar power and can be remotely monitored to determine when they are full. Photo by Zoe Roos/The Source

Amidst ongoing activity to beautify the downtown area, Madison officials are working to keep downtown cleaner and greener, too. Three new high-tech trash compacting and recycling units have been placed in town and officials say the units will help improve recycling efforts and maximize garbage pick up.

The three units, made by Big Belly, contain both a trash compactor unit and a recycling unit that does not compact. Director of Beach and Recreation Scot Erskine said the units are a big improvement.

“All the units are solar powered and what makes them unique is that they have fullness sensors that we can monitor through an app so we will know when they are getting close to being full or when they are full, reducing the guesswork as to whether or not they need to be emptied, which in turn will save us man hours,” he said.

Erskine said not having to drive and check on the units helps cut down on gas expenses in the long term. He said he hopes the town will acquire more of these units for use in other parts of town.

“One other benefit to these units is that rodents, birds, etc., cannot get into them and pull items out,” he said, noting that the design means the units aren’t affected by wind blowing the trash out of the barrels, a problem with the existing trash barrels.

The units were purchased through a combination of allocated budget funds and a supplemental grant for $10,000 from Green Bank, acquired by Energy & Efficiency Committee Chair Woodie Weiss. The units in total cost $23,500.

Erskine said not wasting time picking up trash allows town employees to focus on other parts of town.

Current efforts to collect trash involve “two men and a truck and they go around town to every one of the barrels we have out at fields, beaches, parks, and in downtown area,” he said. “They have to stop, get out, check to see if they need to be emptied, and then move on to the next one. With this system they will be able to see through the app what stations are needing to be emptied reducing time wasted on going to place to place, allowing them to do other work in the parks and on the fields.”

First Selectman Tom Banish said the units will help improve recycling efforts downtown.

“The concept seemed like a really good idea,” he said. “It introduces a green recycling element to downtown that we didn’t really have before. My understanding is they hold something like six times the amount of the average garbage can.”

The three double units are stationed around the downtown area and a single trash unit is located in front of the visitor’s center.