Kitsap Transit looking to the sun to compact trash

Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution to buy solar-powered public trash compactors.

The 10 BigBelly compactors will be purchased from BigBelly Solar for an amount not to exceed $50,000 and will be distributed at remote park-and-ride lots and transfer centers throughout Kitsap County.

James Poss, president and founder of BigBelly Solar, is a resident of Bainbridge Island, as well as an inventor, entrepreneur and professor of “Environmental Entrepreneurship.”

Poss’ background is in renewable energy — specifically, in electric vehicles and solar energy.

He began his renewable energy career with a Pew Foundation grant in 1995 to create a wave-powered energy generator and then went on to design and make electric vehicles.

In 2003, he founded BigBelly Solar around his invention, the world’s first solar-powered trash compactor, which reduces collection frequency by up to 80 percent via compaction at the point of disposal, thereby cost-effectively reducing collections and fleet mileage.

“Jim founded the company to try and solve problems with the invention of renewable energy products that are cost effective as well as green so that they could be widely implemented,” said Richard Kennelly, vice president of marketing for Big Belly. “The trash compactor is a completely self-powered robot that sends a text message to a computer server when the trash is full and needs to be picked up. It also makes note of when the trash is collected.

“Collecting trash is time consuming and expensive, but you have to do it,” Kennelly said. “In Philadelphia, the city replaced all of their trash cans with the solar trash compactors. The public works department was collecting trash 17 times a week, now they collect five times a week and went from three shifts with 33 workers to one shift and three people.”

According to Kennelly, the units will work in any type of weather due to their use of ambient daylight for solar power.

The energy is then stored in a battery so it is operational even during the evening hours.

“Each unit holds the equivalent of about five trash cans, due to the compacting mechanism,” said Kennelly. “Another benefit is it contains litter from animals, weather and smell, requires no electricity and is a cost savings. It was designed for affordability and functionality. No one has been able to do this before and with it, brings a whole new world of information.”

The following locations in Port Orchard will boast these new compactors — one at Harper Church Park-and-Ride, one at Mullenix Park-and-Ride, one at the Annapolis Paid Parking Lot and two at the Port Orchard foot ferry (uplands and dock).

KT estimates the current costs and labor expenses to be $337.83 to pick up and dispose of the waste weekly.

If the trash compactors were incorporated into the KT’s Facilities Maintenance Plan, the commissioners estimate only having to service these areas one time per week providing a savings of $225.22 per week, for an annual savings of $11,711.44.

With an initial capital purchase and notification software cost of $47,956 and a weekly savings of $225.22, the new trash collection system will pay for itself in approximately four years.

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