Solar-powered trash compactors that don’t recycle

Most large cities in North America are facing their own garbage crises, so Toronto shouldn’t feel it’s the only one trying to find solutions to street-side waste.

Boston has done something to raise our eyebrows both positively and negatively — they have introduced a solar-powered trash compactor called Big Belly (much better than EUCAN’s “megabin”, probably one of the least imaginative monikers I’ve ever heard).

The bins are powered by photoelectric panels, which supply power to motor-driven compactors inside. Workers extract neat, 40-pound trash bricks instead of trying to handle the loose contents of bins stuffed to capacity. They hold 150 gallons of trash, about five times more than Boston’s standard city receptacle. Sensors inside the bin detect when the trash has reached a level needing compacting. The sensors trigger a motor that drives the compactor. This model also has an electronic eye that trips the compactor and increases capacity in the solar panels, allowing them to store enough power to run for several weeks without sunlight.

Sounds good until you realize that recycling products aren’t part of the plan. From my initial research, Boston doesn’t have an on-street recycling program.

Boston residents had trouble recognizing what the compactor really was (something Torontonians experienced last summer when the Monster Bin pilot project was introduced). A Boston Globe article states that people downtown mistook them for mail drops or traffic-light switch boxes.

There are now more than 200 of the bins worldwide, including in Vancouver; Cincinnati; Queens, N.Y., and three smaller Massachusetts cities.

Read more in this Boston Globe article.

thanks to Spacing Wire reader Gloria Yip for the tip.


  1. The Boston Globe story says that it reduces the 15 visits a day by sanitation workers…man thats a lot of trash. Besides recycling maybe they need more cans overall. sd

  2. The Eucan Megabin in front of the Science Centre on Don Mills has solar panel. I’m not sure if it’s for logistical reasons or lame P.R.

  3. That thing is really cool. Too bad Boston obviously has a marketing problem when it came to implementing this thing. It’s too bad we don’t create more useful solar powered gadgets like this.

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