Whatever happened to home trash compactors? They were all the rage thirty years ago, but eventually homeowners decided the benefit to an individual household wasn't worth the space the gadget took up in the kitchen, much less repair expenses. But compacting waste on a large scale can save a lot of money in transportation costs and landfill use. Many larger municipal operations compact trash at the landfill site, but how many trips do those huge trucks have to make to get it there?
The Big Belly Solar Compactor is designed for use in public spaces. No need to put it near an electrical outlet, or even near a building. Just set a unit out where the public puts trash, and it operates completely on its own (as long as the sun shines on it occasionally). The compactor reduces the volume of trash to about 20% of the original. That keeps overflow down and reduces the need to empty it as often.

The city of Philadelphia has solar compactors on public streets. The user doesn't even notice that they are different from the old bins, but when a certain volume of trash is reached, the garbage is compacted automatically. When the bin is compacted and full, the unit sends a text message to a central location to let the sanitation department know it needs to be emptied. With 500 bins in the city, city officials estimate the savings at about $850,000 a year due to streamlined collection.

Fenway Park in Boston uses solar compactors. With 35,000 fans discarding food wrappers within a few hours, overflow was inevitable with conventional bins. After all, it wasn't practical to pick up garbage more than once for a park event. In this case, it's a matter of aesthetics and public safety as much as transport costs.

Big Belly solar compactors can be leased for about $80 a month or bought for $3-4,000 (depending on the size and number). That's not cheap, but considering the size of a community sanitation budget and the potential savings over time, it's a win-win situation.