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Solar-Powered Trash Compactors In Queens Enhancing Local Communities As Part Of Queens Clean Air Project Funded By N.Y. Power Authority

Joseph Leary

August 10, 2006


QUEENS—The world’s first solar-powered trash compactor, nicknamed “BigBelly” for the volume of refuse it can hold, is meeting the high expectations raised at an April 2005 Earth Day celebration at Queens Borough Hall when the equipment was unveiled as part of the Queens Clean Air Project (QCAP), a program supported by a $2-million grant from the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

Some 44 BigBelly compactors, deployed between July and September 2005 in eight Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Queens, have reduced trash collection frequency by BID workers, on average, approximately 70 percent. An evaluation of the cutting-edge equipment’s performance also found that the units operated 99.78 percent of the time, and that the communities were pleased with their performance.

The receptacles automatically compress the volume of refuse by one-eighth the original size, with the sun’s energy powering highly efficient motors that deliver up to 1,500 pounds of pressure and can be repeated dozens of consecutive times. The units enhance air quality by requiring less frequent garbage pickups than ordinary trash cans, reducing truck emissions and fuel consumption.

Seahorse Power Company, BigBelly’s manufacturer, recently completed an appraisal of the equipment’s performance for the last year, working with the BIDs. Among those surveyed were the executive directors of each of the eight participating improvement districts, the cleaning and maintenance contractors who empty the trash bags from the BigBelly receptacles, and community residents.

“We’re very pleased that the goals are being met for the ‘BigBelly’ solar-powered compactors,” said Joseph Leary, NYPA Public and Governmental Affairs director, Southeastern New York. “The trash collection burden has been reduced, with less litter on the streets, and people appreciate the benefits of the equipment as a sensible application of renewable energy technology.”

The advanced compactors are located in the following Queens BIDs: Downtown Flushing Transit Hub, Steinway Street, Jamaica Center, Queens Plaza Court Square, Sutphin Boulevard, 165th Street Mall, Myrtle Avenue, and 82nd Street. 

The QCAP, which was launched in 2003 with the funding from NYPA, involves various initiatives for reducing air pollution in the borough and promoting energy efficiency. In addition to NYPA, the partners are the Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future (NESCCAF); the Office of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall; the Natural Resources Defense Council; and the New York Public Interest Research Group. Clean Air Communities (CAC), a regional affiliate of NESCCAF and overall project administrator, provides financial, legal, technical and management implementation for QCAP.

Before and After photos with caption

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