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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.

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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.

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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. 
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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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