Compactors are a smash
Compactors are a smash

There's probably a Big Belly near you - and not the beer-filled kind.

These new solar powered trash compactors have sprung up across the Bronx, in city-sponsored business improvement districts, and look more like mailboxes than the green trash cans Bronxites are used to seeing on streetcorners.

There's no question that this is a thing of the future, said Larry Prospect, executive director of the White Plains Road BID.

Made in Hunts Point by DEC Green, a green cleaning supplies distributor and waste management specialist, the trash compactors take up the same space as a regular trash can, but hold five times as much.

When the trash can fills up, the compactor, powered by solar energy, compresses it so it can hold more. That means crews empty trash every two to three days instead of several times a day.

The Bronx borough president's office bought 15 Big Bellies, which cost about $4,000 each, and distributed them to the borough's six BIDs late last year.

Despite the big price tag, the reduced sanitation and maintenance costs add up to savings in the long run, said Franklin Cruz, DEC Green's president and CEO.

We really need to understand the value in the Big Belly is much greater than those associated with a traditional trash can, he said.

The solar compactors were a big hit in other cities like Philadelphia and made appearances in Queens in 2006, but were removed from that borough after their trial run was over.

Even though the compactors may be efficient and effective for some BIDs, it's difficult for maintenance workers when the trash and piles of recyclable bottles and cans from adjacent trash receptacles pile up during the day.

Mohamed Kabba, 40, a crew member in the White Plains Road BID, continued his battles with bottle-and-can collectors who dig through the plastic bags containing recyclables piled at White Plains Road and Pelham Parkway.

Since the BID installed the Big Belly bins a few months ago, Kabba only takes the trash can recycling out every two to three days. Some days, the recycling bags pile up on the streetcorner, targets for raiders snatching the cans and bottles to redeem them for deposit.

The Sanitation Department usually doesn't come until late in the evening to pick up the bags, said Kabba. And sometimes, if two or three days go by with no garbage pickup, he calls Sanitation.

One recent day, while he was at the other Big Belly across White Plains Road, Kabba witnessed a collector rip a hole in a large plastic bag, pack the bottles from it into a large brown paper bag and dash off to catch the Bx39 bus down the block.


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