According to Alonso Noble, the assistant superintendent of Facilities Management, they are still gathering information regarding the money spent on the project, so it is hard to know if the BigBelly Solar bins are worth it. This information needs to be made known to students before we can trust that the sustainability of the trash cans outweighs the initial costs.
But still, this trash can-recycling bin combo is an effective solution to reducing disposal costs — each unit is a solar-powered trash compactor that can hold about 180 gallons of trash, compared to only 35 gallons that the old trash cans held.
In addition, the units will also save maintenance time because each one has a built-in sensor that detects when bins are full, and maintenance is alerted on a website to empty the unit.
By having a compactor within in each unit, workers will have to empty the receptacles less frequently, and less money will be spent on the transportation costs of dumping the trash because fewer trips will be taken to landfills. The Massachusetts-based company BigBelly Solar, which makes the solar bins, claims that the collection frequency is reduced by up to 80 percent. Saving on these maintenance fees month after month is a smart way to reduce costs and the environmental impact of transportation.
When walking by the new trash cans, the only major concern is the fear of vandalism to the fancy solar panels that sit atop the receptacles. But these same trash bins are found in major cities including Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston — all of which have reputations for crime that just barely beat the mean streets of La Jolla.
Over time it will become more apparent if BigBelly Solar bins are beneficial, but as a campus moving toward sustainability, this looks like an innovation that UCSD shouldn’t throw out.