Shopping area pioneers green trash collection

Solar trash cans made in Hunts Point save fuel and cut pollution

By Peter Jackson

Shoppers on Southern Boulevard were greeted with a new sight in December, a closed rectangular receptacle that pulls open like a mailbox to gather the candy wrappers, cigarette packs, leaflets, apple cores and all the other trash people discard.

Inside, a solar-powered mechanism crushes the throwaways, making much more room than conventional trash cans offer. The manufacturer didn’t have to go far to deliver the new receptacles. They’re built less than half a mile away, in a factory on Tiffany Street.

Direct Environmental Corporation, the maker of the “Big Belly” solar-powered trash can, is so devoted to green products that it’s adopted the initials of the state agency that regulates the environment—DEC.

The trash receptacles, supplied in pairs to the Southern Boulevard Business Improvement District and five other BIDs in the Bronx by the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, are expensive, but they offer significant savings, according to DEC.

When Philadelphia replaced 700 wire baskets with 500 Big Bellies, it stood to save $1.5 million a year because the receptacles don’t need to be emptied as often as conventional cans, a study by the company says.

No bigger than a normal trash can, the compactor holds five times as much trash, according to DEC. As a result, instead of making 17 trips a week to empty the trash, Philadelphia’s Sanitmen made five. With garbage trucks averaging eight miles to a gallon of gas, fuel use and greenhouse gasses are cut by 80 percent, according to the study.

DEC is certified minority-owned business, run by Franklin Cruz, who grew up in the Bronx and now makes his living trying to help clean it up.

Frank, as he is called, also recycles people, employing those others have given up on. DEC has teamed up with The Osborne Association, which helps people who’ve been in prison get jobs. It also partners with The New York State Industries for the Disabled or NYSID, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities find employment.

The company started out manufacturing and repairing the large trash compactors used in buildings. The Big Belly became its flagship product when DEC partnered with Big Belly Solar, the inventors of the solar-powered trash compactor. DEC has since become the sole manufacturer of the Big Belly for the east coast.

Litter is a major concern for the Southern Boulevard Business Improvement District. Sanitation was one of the top three issues, along with security and marketing, for the BID’s business owners, according to a survey the BID conducted.

“The solar powered compactors are definitely going to help the sanitation problems,” said Medina Sadiq, the BID’s executive director.

“The compactors are rodent proof and require less pick up trips from garbage trucks. We look forward to cleaner streets in our neighborhood.”

A version of this story appeared in the March 2010 issue of The Hunts Point Express.

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