VCU installs 15 more solar trash compactors

Hillary Huber

Contributing Writer

Furthering VCU’s efforts to go green, the university has purchased 15 additional solar-powered trash compactors, which lower trash collection, labor costs and provide a cleaner environment.

The compactors, which are located on both campuses, can hold up to five times more waste than normal trashcans, and run on solar power. According to BigBelly Solar, the company that provides the compactors, operating costs for trash collection could be reduced by 80 percent.

Richard Kennelly, BigBelly’s vice president of marketing, said the compactors are not only cost efficient for the university, but they’re great for the environment as well.

“There are three ways the compactors are a ‘green’ product. They’re solar powered, which means the units are self-powered and don’t require any external energy … Secondly, trash is contained. Litter stays away from birds, squirrels and rats. It’s also beneficial in a city, where litter can get into gutters and the waterways … (Lastly), the units are made of recycled materials,” Kennelly said.

Two of the compactors were purchased in 2008, and their high-level efficiency prompted the university to purchase 15 more units in the hopes of increasing its sustainability even more.

Jacek Ghosh, VCU’s director of sustainability, said although the trash compactors are expensive (about $4,000 each), they will save the university a significant amount of money when it comes to trash collection. Where a normal trashcan would have to be collected once a day, the BigBelly compactors can hold up to five times the capacity of a normal trashcan, thus reducing collection to once a week.

“Folks that would typically have to spend time collecting the trash will now have more time to spend focusing on other things on the grounds,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh said VCU’s goal is to significantly decrease its carbon footprint, and to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

“The BigBellies are a small part of that plan, but it’s the little pieces we’re doing here and there that lessen the curve on the scale (of our carbon footprint),” Ghosh said.

Brian Pompeo, the director of Product Line Management for Waste Management, a partner of BigBelly Solar, said the companies, collaboratively, are interested in providing “innovative, green technology” to the public, especially places like VCU. Pompeo said he knew VCU was a place they wanted to work with, knowing how many students are interested in green technology.

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