Solar-Powered Trash Cans Help Keep The Lid On Urban Waste

We all seen them: public trash cans overflowing with food, newspapers, and other things humans discard mid-transit. They’re unsightly, usually smell bad, and lend to the overall perception that cities are dirty and unsafe. Of course, the bigger the city the more trash, but also a larger area to be maintained by what is usually a rather small force of sanitation workers.

The UK  City of Bath had just such a problem, trash cans overflowing in the street and plenty of urban sea gulls to feast upon it. Instead of upping the frequency that the bins were emptied, wasting energy and lots of extra plastic bags, they decided to incorporate a solar-powered solution.


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The city installed 26 new bins that have two volume sensors. When the trash gets to a certain level in the bin, an internal compressor is triggered, compacting the waste and leaving room for more to be added. According to city officials, the bins have eight times the capacity of a normal trash can, simply because all the contents are flattened. Solar panels ensure that the bins place no demand on the city’s energy grid. Other upgrade options include a wireless monitoring system which sends text messages to staff telling them a bin is ready for emptying, and additional bins for recycling.

The compacting trash cans are being leased by the city, and although each bin set the City back about $1,610, officials say they should save the council approximately $48,327 a year, making them cost-neutral. If successful in curbing litter, saving money, and generating renewable energy, the City says it will deploy additional bins.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog


  • Reply September 14, 2012


    Those bins have been around for a long time in many cities (personnaly saw tgem in Boston or Strasbourg…). It’s a great move for Bath, but surely not a novelty.

    • Reply September 14, 2012


      Really? I’ve never seen one. Maybe they’re more popular in Europe?

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