People make trash. And it’s a fact of life that cities, park departments, entertainment venues, and yes, public transit agencies, have to provide a place for people to put their trash and take care of disposing of that trash. That, my friends, is a costly proposition. PSTA uses a contractor to service the trash cans located at our bus stops all over Pinellas County, and we pay by the can each time they pick up. With over 800 trash cans in our system, that bill adds up pretty quickly.
Well, a new money-saving solution is here: solar trash compactors. Manufactured by Big Belly Solar, Inc., the BigBelly compactors harness the power of information technology and renewable energy to help reduce some of our expensive trash pickups. Inside these state-of-the-art, solar-powered trash cans, a sensor keeps track of how full it is and automatically goes through a compaction cycle. When the can is full, after several cycles, it sends an email to our Facilities Maintenance department telling them it’s ready to be emptied. This very specific, real time notification means that our contractor or an in-house crew can pinpoint pickups and make their rounds in an extremely efficient manner. And, since they only pick up when they know it’s full, we aren’t paying them to service trash cans that don’t need it.
There is a capital outlay for the BigBelly cans; they cost about $4000 each. But, don’t worry, these fancy new trash cans will pay for themselves within the first few months in service and will save us a ton in the long run. We started the program with a trial at our PSTA 34th Street Transfer Center with four cans. Here’s how the math works out:
Traditional: Annual cost for daily servicing of four (4) “regular” cans at the Transfer Center is $9,464 (this is 4 cans X 365 pickups)
Compactors: We’re able to reduce the number of cans to two (2), and reduce pickup to two times per month. Using the same per pickup rate that we pay the current contractor, this drops our annual cost to just $312 (2 cans X 26 pickups)
So, when we put two compactors at this location, even with a purchase price of $4000 each ($8000 total), we still save over $1000 in the first year. In the second year, we save over $9000 for just this one bus transfer location! This is a huge savings!
The compactors are the same size as a regular trash can, and since they’re solar powered they need lots of direct sunlight. In addition to the cost savings, we’re seeing that the overall cleanliness of the bus stops with compactors has improved – perhaps thanks to the fact that the trash is all contained and can’t blow around. With the thought of how much money these compactors can save us in mind, we chose several promising locations for placement of the other 12 we’ve purchased so far: Gateway Mall, Park Street Terminal, 75th Ave & Gulf Way, Clearwater Mall, Grand Central, and Ulmerton Rd & 49th St (2 of the 4 corners).
We hope to purchase about 70 more over the next couple of years and can’t wait to see the savings!