BIG Speaks Out For Big Belly Trash Compactors

The following op-ed was written by Steve Barrison. Barrison is the president of Bay Improvement Group and executive vice president of the Small Business Congress of New York City. The op-ed was written in response to the Department of Sanitation’s claim that Big Belly automatic solar-powered trash compactors were “very cost prohibitive” and confusing for residents.

Contrary to the Sanitation Department’s statement, Big Belly machines save money and are not regularly confused with mailboxes!

Also, local businesses should be investigated for using street litter baskets illegally. They must have private carters!

The Challenge: Reducing operating costs to balance the budget, while maintaining service levels.

In 2009, The City of Philadelphia was faced with a difficult but common issue. Mandated budget cuts had every department scrambling to figure out how to provide vital public services on fewer budget dollars. As with other departments, the public waste services division was targeted for a budget reduction, but there was also concern that any cutbacks in actual services levels would unleash a flood of public complaints. Still, the imperative to close the budget gap remained.

At the time, Philadelphia was collecting each public space trash bin in its city center 17 times per week across three shifts with a crew of 33 individuals – an expensive proposition in terms of labor hours, fuel expenses, high vehicle capital and maintenance costs, and tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions. One year later, Philadelphia now services the same territory with nine individuals on a single shift at an average of 5.5 times per week, producing $900,000 in year one operating cost savings and a projected $13 million saved over the next 10 years – and citizens are saying that the streets look better than ever!

How did Philadelphia accomplish this dramatic reduction in cost while maintaining service levels? They looked at their labor, fleet, waste bin and other waste collection-related expense areas as an interconnected “system” for the first time and replaced 700 conventional trash bins with 500 solar-powered compacting trash bins and 210 companion recycling units provided by Big Belly Solar – in concert with a wireless communications capability that allowed the city to better route and monitor vehicles and staff. Labor that was freed up by fewer required collections was used to staff the city’s expanding recycling program, and an energized citizenry applauded this “green initiative.”  The Big Belly system marked the first public space recycling initiative in the city’s history.

Cities and towns both large and small can similarly benefit from taking a whole-systems approach to their trash and recycling collection operations, and analyzing how solar-powered compaction, integrated recycling capability and “smart” wireless network technology can save millions in operating costs while greening their cityscapes.

We are not in any way looking to replace manpower but to allocate them to do more in other areas. New York City has no shortage of sanitation issues facing it. The Big Belly not only does all the above it, frees our resources to concentrate on other cleanup initiatives across the city!



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