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FOX Business: Reducing the Cost of Cities’ Trash Collection by 80%
BigBelly Solar CEO on how solar-powered trash cans save cities millions of dollars a year.
Liz Claman interviews BigBelly Solar CEO Barry Fougere on Fox Business Network’s ”After the Bell”
Liz Claman: Your city taxes could go down, thanks to BigBelly Solar. We are going to talk to the CEO of a company that is revolutionizing the way you dispose of your trash. They are putting solar panels onto trashcans, saving an entire city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Should they be in your city?
Listen, it is such a good idea that Harvard and MIT have bought into it, cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston are in as well. Finding a way to cut costs by using the sun’s power to smash down trash. BigBelly Solar is the company that makes these trashcans that reduce the frequency of collections needed, and that is saving millions in trash pick up fees. Barry Fougere is the CEO of BigBelly Solar, and he is joining us live from Massachusetts. OK, Barry, I heard about this company and I said, “Book ‘em, Danno.” This is an incredible idea. First, tell us how these work.
Barry Fougere: What happens is, we take power of the sun – all of our waste and recycling stations are solar powered – we’re compacting trash and we’re also sensing the fullness levels of the trash in these receptacles, communicating that information back to a software management console. The combination of these activities allows sanitation departments and facilities management organizations to reduce the collection frequency by up to 80%. As you said this is saving cash-strapped cities millions of dollars a year in avoided staff costs and fuel associated with running garbage trucks much, much more frequently than is required.
Liz: This is inspired. So much so, that Philadelphia decided, “You know what? We’re already in trouble financially.” They bought into these. They’re on streets. And already were hearing that Philadelphia has saved $900,000 in trash pick up fees. So, in essence it works where the solar panels are on top – and maybe we can show some of that video again of these trashcans, that are just on street corners, correct?
Liz: And subsequently they will compress the trash over and over, to the point where – how much more can this can hold than a regular one on a street in New York City that doesn’t have this?
Barry: About five times the capacity. So in a traditional 35-gallon type of trash can we can hold 180 gallons in the same footprint.
Liz: And then there is a signal that it sends out when it is full. Only then does a worker get called out. So you’re already saving man-hours, obviously, because sometimes trashcans that we see on the street are way overflowing, or sometimes they’re empty and they came out and got paid for the hours worked, yet the trash didn’t need to be picked up, correct?
Barry: Yes. We find quite frequently that the trashcans are empty or there may be a few candy wrappers or something like this and the system that we use, the information system, we’re able to essentially take seven to eight out of every 10 trash collection trips off the street. And in an industry that’s burning about 1.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel a year, this is a very significant environmental savings, but it also frees up labor resources and trucks to accomplish other important tasks for cities who are really struggling with their budget deficits.
Liz: Well, the first thing I thought was that the waste management guys, and certainly the workers are going to hate this – except that at least Waste Management, the company itself thought if you can’t beat them, join them. It is such a good idea that Waste Management has become a minority investor in your company. Who else is in? Are you getting venture capital money here, and will you eventually go public, launch an IPO?
Barry: This is sort of an interesting business in that there is not a lot of venture capital investment that you might see in companies like this. It’s an organization that a lot of high net worth individuals that are environmentally conscious and sensitive to the struggles of our cities wanted to get behind this company, and we’re growing with their support. An IPO may be a future opportunity. It’s not something were thinking about right now. We’re really happy that we’re not only making a positive environmental impact, we’re helping as you mentioned with cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, really struggling with their budget situation be able to do more with less.
Liz: How much do they cost?
Barry: Well, it depends on the system, obviously, but this is more expensive than a traditional trashcan. But, a park system that may have a park where they want to put 10 of our solutions in, that might be about $1,000 a month over a five-year period. So more expensive than a traditional trashcan, but we find when cities are spending $2,000 per trashcan per year for the activity of collecting trash, that the capital payback on this investment is very, very rapid.
Liz: Absolutely. And at a time when municipalities are strapped, they’ve got to come up with better solutions. And, Barry, BigBelly Solar is one of them.
Liz: I love this company because, whether you’re green to me is not the issue: It saves money – and that is the benefit.
Barry: It saves money.
Liz: Thank you so much for joining us.
Barry: Thank you, Liz.