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Solar Powered Trash Cans Talk to the City

New bins on Main Street are compacting trash, including recyclables. They also alert the city when they're full and need to be picked up.

Santa Monica boasts smart parking meters, now it is joining other cities in deploying smart trash cans.

Thirteen new bins from the Massachusetts-based company, BigBelly, were placed on Main Street last week, and city officials say they will divert waste from landfills and will cut back on the "gas-guzzling" trips made by garbage trucks.

Each soloar-powered compact bin has two units, one for trash and one for recycables. They are equipped with a chip that delivers real-time data to the city's waste management division, showing when the units are full and need to be picked up.

"This allows us to reduce the number of litter container collection trips on a weekly basis," said Kim Braun, Santa Monica's resource recovery and recycling manager.

A few years ago, one BigBelly bin was placed in the 2800 block of Main Street—but it was for trash only, Braun said.

Each dual unit is capabale of replacing five of the city's concrete trash containers, she said. The city has spent about $99,000 on the 13 bins.

There was no information yet on how many collection trips the BigBelly bins will save Santa Monica, but Braun said "we will monitor both the collection trip reduction as well as public participation in the recycling component... throughout the year."

Boston University has lowered its collection trips to fewer than twice a week, compared to 14, according to BigBelly's website. Other cities using the bins include Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston and New York.

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