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Buffalo’s Big Bellies

The last few years have been ripe with controversy over Earth’s ecosystem.  Some assert that our planet is heating up, while others argue that it’s a myth.  Either way, can’t we always be doing more to keep the only life sustaining planet within reach as green as possible?  That’s where Big Belly comes in.  It’s a simple device that looks a lot like a regular garbage can, but it’s not.  This innovative little device makes a big impact on both the environment and the economy alike.


Here’s how it works: you’re walking around Elmwood and you stop in at Spot for a coffee or a bottled water, or you buy some ice cream from James.  When you finish with your treat, you throw the cup, empty bottle or wrapper in a Big Belly.  Thousands of other people do the same.  When the garbage reaches two feet in height, a sensor inside of Big Belly tells the solar-powered compactor mechanism to crush the trash.  One Big Belly can hold a volume equivalent to five regular garbage receptacles.  It also cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.  In addition, Big Belly eliminates the chances of vermin getting into the trash.


This is where things get really cool.  Since Big Belly is so innovative, it tells you when it needs to be changed.  A green light means “plenty of room,”  yellow means “I’m getting full here, man,” and red means “totally full.”  When it’s full, it emails this information to workers.  It’s a huge time-saver, since workers won’t have to make a trip to the receptacles multiple times in a week.

Check out some financial and environmental figures from cities that have employed Big Belly:

-The city of Boston, Massacusetts currently has over 150 Big Bellies.  Mayor Thomas Menino is a huge supporter of the initiative.  “The solar trash receptacles have to go citywide.” he said.  “It will give us a more productive workforce because you don’t have to pick them up every day.” 
-The town of Banff in Alberta, Canada has 17 Big Belly recycling kiosks.  They save $2,500 monthly from reduced pick-up trips and increased recycling revenue.  Less trips means less fuel used.

Philadelphia has deployed 500 units in their city. 

Couldn’t Buffalo benefit from something like this?  While the compactors are expensive, at $3,500 per unit, Big Belly has employed a leasing payment plan, allowing the cost to be spread out across several years, and the savings would allow the city to see a return on their investment.  Also, many of the garbage cans in the Elmwood area cost approximately $1500-2000 apiece, with no chance for return.  Right now, the city is on a three-week trial with the Niagara Square located Big Belly.  But the company has plans to meet with Erie County and Amherst about their own programs.

Big Belly even has a computer program that allows for a city or town to decide if a brigade of Big Belly cans is economically feasible by simply comparing current sanitation costs against the cost of a program.

Big Belly could present a great opportunity to help the ecosystem and save our city some money.  

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