Allentown unveils 250 solar waste & recycling stations

Mayor Ed Pawlowski using a BigBelly recycling station.

New compactors using solar power are expected improve collection efficiency, saving money, time and fuel.

Allentown, PA – The city of Allentown is using the power of the sun to keep its streets clean.

The first of 250 BigBelly solar-powered waste and recycling stations was unveiled Wednesday at 12th and Hamilton streets, outside the Allentown Public Library. The city will install the BigBelly solar compactors in high traffic areas and city parks in a bid to get a handle on litter and improve the city’s trash collecting efficiency.

The solar compactors can hold about five times more than a regular trash can, so they won’t have to be emptied as much. The kiosks will be paid for, installed and maintained by Waste Management, the city’s trash collection contractor, and emptied by city solid waste crews.

“We are here to make Allentown a cleaner and greener city,” Mayor Ed Pawlowski said Wednesday as the solar compactors were displayed at 12th and Hamilton streets.

The receptacles are powered by solar cells and 100 of them will be coupled with a recycling kiosk that will allow passers-by to toss in bottles, cans and paper. They include sensors that use mobile technology to contact the city when they need to be emptied.

Mayor Pawlowski said a unit was tested recently at the corner of Sixth and Turner streets and made a significant dent in the litter problem.

“I was shocked,” he said. “That corner in those three months was the cleanest I have ever seen it.”

City Recycling and Solid Waste Bureau manager Ann Saurman said the solar compactors are far better than the small, blue, pole-mounted litter baskets the city now relies on. The baskets fill up too quickly and can actually contribute to the litter problem as residents overstuff them and they spill onto the street.

Waste Management will help the city educate residents on how to use the new system. It’s one of the largest deployments of the technology in Pennsylvania, behind Philadelphia, which has about 1,000 of the waste & recycling stations.

Bill Eddy, sales director with Newton, Mass.-based BigBelly Solar, said the system will cut collection frequency by as much as 70 percent and could save 3,300 work hours and up to 10,000 gallons of fuel.

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