Texas State is hosting a solar-powered trash compactor for a trial period in an attempt to cut down on waste management fees and litter on campus.
The BigBelly Solar Compactor system, located between the Alkek Library breezeway and the LBJ Student Center, is a trash receptacle that automatically compacts litter and alerts management when maintenance is needed. The BigBelly compactor is quickly becoming a staple on college campuses, parks and city centers throughout the world, said Mario Garza, supervisor of Recycling and Waste Management.
Garza said while the compactor’s demonstration was meant to last until Feb. 14, it has been approved to stay on campus for an additional week to better gauge its popularity with passersby. He said the biggest obstacle in obtaining Texas State’s own permanent BigBelly is awareness.
“We are just not getting good data from it right now just because the students and staff do not know where it is or even what it is,” Garza said.
The next step would be to write proposals for the purchase of permanent units throughout campus, if the demonstration has a positive response. High-traffic areas such as the Student Center would be candidates for the new receptacles.
“We would definitely want to take on more of them,” Garza said. “We just need to get the word out so students can start to actually use them and see the possibilities it could bring to campus.”
Garza said the compactor is revolutionary in its ability to self-maintain and operate. The machine has a sensor that measures the amount of trash inside, which is compacted once it reaches a certain level. The BigBelly’s solar panel charges an internal battery, which is used to power the compactor.
The solar panel that fuels the compactor requires virtually no servicing and its simple, modern aesthetic makes it more acceptable for public areas than a conventional garbage can, Garza said.
BigBelly provides a software system that alerts members of Recycling and Waste Management through emails when it reaches capacity, effectively eliminating time workers spend unnecessarily checking the barrels.
“The unit is supposed to reduce labor as far as servicing the barrels,” Garza said. “In theory, this should cut down the time that the grounds staff spends working with the receptacles.”
The unit currently costs about $3,000, but could pay for itself in time because of reduced maintenance costs. The unit may be purchased at a lower potential cost because Texas State is a public university.
Garza said some universities and cities have eliminated all other trash receptacles and replaced them exclusively with the BigBelly system. He said the option to phase out other forms of waste management can be partly attributed to the carrying capacity of the unit, its sustainability and sleek design.
Cody Alderete, criminal justice junior, said he thought the compactor was just another recycling bin at first glance.
“I didn’t notice it until I stopped to actually take a look at it. It’s right next to a recycling bin. So, I assumed they were the same thing,” Alderete said.
Garza said one problem he heard of was students not wanting to touch the handle to the lid of the receptacle for fear of germs.
Liam Reitz, sales representative for BigBelly, said the handles are stainless steel and completely sanitary.
“It’s not like touching a trashcan,” Reitz said. “It is designed to be clean for everyone to touch. No one should worry about that at all.”