Putting the squeeze on trash in downtown Phoenix

Phoenix has placed 15 solar-powered trash cans, with recycling bins attached, in downtown Phoenix. (Photo By Morgan Wheeler/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Solar-powered trash cans placed in downtown Phoenix compact and reduce trash, spur recycling and cut down on trash collections – and may herald a new way to get rid of trash, Phoenix officials say.

The trash cans turn 15-minutes of daily sunshine into enough power to compact trash. That leaves room for more trash and recyclables. It holds more than eight times more trash than a regular can, according to Samantha Jackson, who oversees operations at Downtown Phoenix Inc., an organization to promote and revitalize the area.

“They are really meant to be more effective in terms of trash collection,” Jackson said. “We are excited to have them because the other great thing about them is they have a separate recycling bin. (With) our old recycling efforts, everything went to the landfill because it was so contaminated with trash and recyclables.”

People too often throw away chicken bones and other trash into the recycling bin, which means everything in there has to be thrown away, she said.

And the solar-trash bins talk, too. Or at least text.

Once a Bigbelly bin is packed, it texts a message to Phoenix Public Works.

“These bins will actually tell us when they are full. So we get live data that says ‘Hey, your bin is full. Come pick it up,’ ” said Lucas Mariacher of the Phoenix Public Works department.

Map by Taylor Notah/Cronkite News

Downtown Phoenix has placed about 15 solar trash cans on streets to reduce the number of trash pick-ups from three times to once a week. Some have trash compactors only and eight also have a recycling bin attached.

Phoenix hopes to expand the trash compactors to parks and state universities after a six-month test. If the new cans lead to less frequent collections, costs for trash pick up will likely decrease and recycling bins will be less contaminated, Jackson said.