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Compactor puts the squeeze on waste

A new gray and black BigBelly Solar Compactor arrived on Dec. 18 in front of the Sharpe Refectory. The compactor outside the Ratty is the first such receptacle on campus, which was installed as a collaboration between the Brown EcoReps program and Facilities Management.

Slightly larger than the average trash can, it uses solar power to compact trash to as little as one-fifth of its original volume, allowing it to be emptied less frequently and giving it a much larger capacity to hold trash, according to Vice President for Facilities Management Stephen Maiorisi. In addition to compacting trash, the compactor can send an e-mail to an administrator when it is full, allowing it to be emptied promptly, he said.

The unit is expected to yield a 50 to 70 percent reduction in collection activities associated with the trash can and will pay for itself within one to two years, Maiorisi said.
He said the compactor has been functioning well so far, but will see its first big test when the weather gets warmer.

"People, especially in the spring, were taking a lot of food and eating outside," Maiorisi said.

Maiorisi said he hopes that the new machine will also alleviate the trash overflow problems that have occurred in the past. If effective in that goal, Facilities plans to install more of the compactors throughout campus "in areas with heavy use," Maiorisi said. 

"It allows our grounds crew to be more productive," he said. "It'll definitely pay for itself."

Kai Morrell '11, coordinator of EcoReps, said the group had thought about getting a compactor for Brown after hearing about successful installations at college campuses such as Harvard and Stanford.

A big push to get a trash compactor on campus came from Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron, who saw similar trash compactors while visiting Trinity College in Dublin last summer and made the suggestion to Maiorisi.

The installation of a solar trash compactor is part of a general push by Facilities and EcoReps to make Brown more energy-efficient. As part of this effort, Facilities has plans of installing photovoltaic cells on the GeoChem Building.

"We're always looking at new technologies," Maiorisi said.

Facilities has also been exploring less high-tech ways to reduce consumption, such as organizing awareness campaigns. There are plans for holding a campus-wide competition among dorms to reduce energy consumption later this year, said Ginger Gritzo, energy and environmental programs coordinator for Facilities.

"You could throw all the money in the world at a building," Gritzo said. "But at a certain point, people just need to get involved with their behaviors."

Though many students have seen the new receptacle, some are not completely sure what it does.

"I knew it was there, but I didn't know it was a trash compactor," said Kara Kaufman '12.
"It's good to know that the University is doing its best to stay at the edge of technology," said Okezie Nwoka '11.

"I thought it was a donation box for Haiti," said Christina Skonberg '12. After learning of the machine's benefits, she added, "For Facilities, I think it's a great idea because they have some of the hardest jobs ever."

BigBelly Solar, founded in 2003, has already sold solar compactors to cities including Philadelphia, which expects to save more than $1 million annually through its 500 solar compactors, according to the BigBelly Web site.

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