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More BigBelly Solar compactors bound for Bainbridge Island

A BigBelly Solar unit is a regular in the Kitsap Transit parking area at the Bainbridge ferry terminal - Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo
A BigBelly Solar unit is a regular in the Kitsap Transit parking area at the Bainbridge ferry terminal
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo

Sustainable Bainbridge has finally found a way to rid Winslow Way of its overflowing garbage cans, at least it will once the reconstruction project on the street is finished.

The eventual purchase of seven BigBelly Solar waste compactors/recyling bins will also help reduce the amount of fossil fuel used on the island’s main street by cutting down on the trip frequency of one of the biggest diesel gas hogs on the road – disposal trucks.

Els Heyne, a Sustainable Bainbridge board member, has been the lead person for WOW (Wiping Out Waste) Bainbridge in rallying the community to buy seven of the solar compactors from a company located in Newton, Mass.

Heyne believes the units have a bright future because the recycling and compacting units sit side by side and makes it easy for pick up.

The contraptions have two compartments: one collects glass, plastic and paper recycling; the other is a solar-powered unit that is highly energy efficient through a series of patent-protected processes that allow the waste compactor to operate 365 days a year.

The machines are a natural for Bainbridge Island, said Jim Poss, BigBelly Solar's founder and current CPO who is an island resident. Poss and his family moved here from the Boston area four years ago, but he is still involved with BigBelly.

"These days because of the economy, community activists rather than governments are often the people who initiate the purchase of our product," Poss said. "It's a natural for Bainbridge since communities that are environmentally advanced have embraced the product. We've had machines at the ferry terminal and behind City Hall at the Farmers' Market for a while, so Sustainable Bainbridge has known about them and came to us."

While each machine costs more than $6,000, they are cost-effective in the long run because they rarely break down and don't require daily pick up by disposal companies, Heyne said.

“What’s great about them is that they will cut down on Bainbridge Disposal’s daily trips for picking up the garbage, which is really bad during the summer with all the tourists,” said Heyne. “With the compactor, they’ll come down for pick up only about once a week.”

Heyne said Bainbridge Disposal is enthusiastic about the new devices because it will cut its trip costs, though it hasn't been charging for downtown garbage pickup since it has an exclusive commercial and residential contract with the city.

“We service the cans with concrete bases downtown every day,” said Dave Stanley, Bainbridge Disposal’s general manager. The business bought the cans years ago and then donated them to the city.

“There will be some savings,” he said, “because we won’t have to go there more than a once or twice a week. From what I understand, they have an electronic way of letting us know when they are full.”

Now, beginning at 6 a.m. daily, disposal trucks pick up trash on Winslow Way, the library and high school.

“But in the summer when the tourists are in town the cans can be overflowing by 10 in the morning,” he said. “It looks bad down there when the cans get full and spill out. We like to leave the street better than we found it.”

Heyne said WOW Bainbridge has received pledges for $30,000 of the $44,000 needed to buy seven of the solar contraptions. She said $6,000 each has come from a Rotary Club grant, a city grant, Island Gateway, Town & Country and Sustainable Bainbridge. Island Gateway will get one unit, and three will be placed on each side of Winslow way between Ericksen and North Madison avenues.

Poss said the use of a BigBelly unit will eliminate about $1,500 to $2,000 in collection costs annually.

"Our system is vastly cheaper and a better way to go environmentally than the old trash can," said Poss. "It decreases the amount of fossil fuel used in collection and amount of garbage disposed of. And our maintenance, when compared to the cost of maintaining a truck, is way ahead."

He said the machines have a long life cycle and are easy to maintain. The only moving parts are an electric motor and two motorcycle drive chains, all of which rarely need to be replaced and are under warranty when they do. They also have a small battery, which needs to be charged every five years or so."

"There's not much to go wrong," Poss said. "other than vandalism, a broken door lock or one of them getting run over by bus."

He said environmental activists in Portland, Ore., have launched a successful "Adopt A Belly" program with about 50 of them now on the ground, though the city itself has not been involved directly.

Poss said the units, 10,000 of which have been sold worldwide in less than a decade, can be purchased through a distributor and usually delivered in a couple of days.

WOW Bainbridge

For more information or to contribute, call 842-4439 or email: info@sustainablebainbridge.org.

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