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BigBelly Solar compactor now squeezes recycling

First, there were solar-powered garbage cans. Now municipalities can put the squeeze on recyclable trash and cut down on the number of trips garbage handlers make.

It was only a question of time. BigBelly Solar has expanded its product line with a solar-powered compactor for recyclables.

The Needham, Mass.-based company first started selling trash cans with a small 30-watt solar panel on the top that powers a compactor a couple of years ago.

Solar-powered recycling and trash bins from BigBelly Solar. BigBelly Solar

Municipalities have been buying them to cut down on the number of trips that garbage handlers need to make. That cuts down on fuel costs (garbage trucks get about 2.5 mpg) and reduces street congestion and pollution.

There's also the "green PR" when people see the solar panel on the top of a trash can.

Now the company has developed a compactor for recycled goods. It comes in a few configurations, but the recycling units (for paper or bottles and cans) have their own panels and are placed next to solar trash cans.

The product design is meant to be green all the way through by using recycled plastic and nontoxic paint.

Ultimately, BigBelly plans on equipping its units with communications capabilities so that they can tell garbage collectors when they are full or broken.

But for now, cities and towns just need to hope consumers know how to sort their trash.