BigBelly trash cans improve trash collection efficiency in big ways

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DENVER -- It could be the wave of the future when it comes to trash collection. BigBelly receptacles are found in major American cities, including, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Now, they are making themselves at home in Colorado.

They'll be found in Denver and Douglas County, and Commerce City is investigating the idea of the high-tech trash cans.

The typical attractions bring Sarah Warren to Washington Park in Denver.: Picnics, bike riding and floating boats.

"Now it’s more for the playgrounds," she said.

But there's another attraction most people pass by without a second thought. It's the solar-powered BigBelly trash cans. Denver has 44 of them in 26 parks.

The BigBellys use solar power to compact the trash. One trash can can hold the garbage of five regular 55-gallon trash cans. And when they're full, the smart trash cans automatically alert the city via email.

"Instead of going four to seven times a week, we go on average one time a week. You're saving on the number of trash cans you’re emptying and the times you're going," said May Fenton with the Denver Parks and Recreation Department.

Fenton also said most of the receptacles are placed in parks that are more far out and take longer for city crews to get there. They each cost about $4,000.

"That seems a little steep," said James Proctor, visiting the park with his family Monday.

Some taxpayers wonder if that's wasteful. But the city said by the end of 10 years, the trash cans will save about $200,000 in labor costs and free workers to do other jobs.

Warren said there's an added bonus.

"It seems to keep the squirrels away, which is an important feature in trash collection," she said.

It’s yet another attraction at a beautiful park that's not always so obvious.

"I have a very adversarial relationship with squirrels. We have a garden and they eat our pumpkins and tomatoes,” Warren chuckled.

The city of Denver will roll out 24 additional BigBelly trash cans over the next two years. It will then assess the program to see where it goes from there.