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Solar Cleans Up

Sullivan Solar Power

Solar power has been used to make an array of products better, from calculators to ovens to water heaters. Now that technology is going to waste-literally.

Los Angeles City Councilman Ed P. Reyes has overseen the installation of five new solar trash compactors in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles.

The containers are about the size of a mailbox and cost $25,000. The closed-top containers keep trash from falling out and attracting animals and pests. A solar panel on the top powers a sensor that can tell when the trash bin has reached capacity. At that point, the compactor, also powered by solar energy, crushes the garbage to make room for more. The containers can hold up to five times the amount of trash as a regular can, according to reports. The solar power also activates a wireless card that notifies a monitoring center when the bin is full, or when there is an operational issue.

The bins are made by BigBelly Solar, a Massachusetts-based company. (The company also makes companion compacting recycling bins, as well as a management console that tracks the containers' data.) The bins are made in facilities in Kentucky and Vermont, and the exterior is crafted from recycled steel and plastics. The bins can run on their solar powered internal battery for more than 72 hours without direct sunlight. Los Angeles is the latest in a list of cities to put the solar trash bins on their streets-others include Philadelphia, Fort Collins, CO, and New York City. They are also popular in parks, beaches, and on university campuses.

Councilman Reyes called the bins "the future in trash collecting for the City of Los Angeles" in astatement. Javier Polanco, division manager with the city's Bureau of Sanitation, commended the move and added that it would greatly improve the "litter problems" in the area.

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