Better Than A Coal Powered Garbage Can

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

This is a solar powered garbage can. Go ahead and mock it for a second. I know I did.

When I walked by this thingamadongus on the corner of Clark and Diversey I took a picture with the intention of mocking it for quite a bit longer than a second, but the more I think about it the more I think it’s actually a useful, well-designed device.

With the exception of the lady who shoved a whole pizza box out of her car window while parked in front of my apartment, I think we can all agree that litter is a bad thing. Non-solar-powered garbage cans do a pretty good job of accepting litter and holding it until it can be disposed of, thus keeping it off of our streets and babies, but they aren’t the greatest in high-traffic areas where garbage cans either turn into overflowing piles of refuse or need to be emptied several times a day.

This trash receptacle, known as Big Belly, uses solar power to run a compactor that allows it to store about 5 times as much as a normal trash can. I’ll leave it to city bean counters to decide whether or not its price tag (about 100 times the cost of a normal garbage can) is offset by the reduced labor cost (although I’m not sure how much I trust their decisions.)

I guess what seemed mock-worthy is the “Think Green!” sign on the side. Just because something is solar powered doesn’t mean that it is especially “green.” The Big Belly is no more energy efficient than an average 55 gallon drum that doesn’t doesn’t consume any power at all.

Just as the “reduce, reuse, recycle” credo establishes a hierarchy of environmentally beneficial waste management, energy management should also begins with reduction.  In other words, it makes a lot more sense to get an efficient refrigerator in your house than it does to put solar panels on your roof to power an inefficient one.

That said, I like these electric garbage cans.  Besides, you could make the argument that fewer pickups require fewer garbage trucks and thus less fuel, so maybe they are “thinking green” after all.

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