I was in Washington DC for the arpa-e Energy Innovation Summit February 28 through March 2. Never having been in our Nation's Capital before, I went a day early so that I could at least get a tourist blow by of some of the landmarks. I can say that much was deeply moving and it was a bit surreal to see these iconic buildings and memorials.
I was on my way to the Pentagon
Memorial (for those who died in the 9-11 terrorist attack in both the
Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77) and about to enter a
tunnel through which we walked to get to the Memorial when I saw what I instantly knew will surely
be the savior of us all, at least from an energy standpoint.
"There's the answer to all of our problems" I said to myself, "a solar powered compactor for a city trash receptacle." And here I was thinking that the government funded arpa-e program was necessary! But am I being unfair with my cynicism? I noted that the manufacturer was BigBelly Solar and visited their web site where I found that, indeed, theirs is a significant product. It may not save the world, but it represents the sort of thinking that will help.
According to the information on their web site (and taking them at their word), they hold five times the amount of trash as a conventional trash receptacle of equal size by utilizing solar energy to compact the waste on in the container. This saves 80% of the trips required to empty the container, thus reducing fuel use and carbon (and other pollutant) emissions.
Further, the compactors utilize a wireless monitoring system to notify owners of the need to empty them, thus eliminating wasted trips for partially full containers. Among others, the Cities of Albany, Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as Brown University have implemented the BigBelly Solar Collector system.
Far from my initial opinion that they're "greenwashing" in action, these modernized versions of the humble trash receptacle are innovative and energy saving. I'm going to see if the City of Anaheim, where I live, and the City of Long Beach, where I work, have plans to implement the BigBelly Solar Collector solution.