School of Medicine Waste

Solar Powered Trash Compactors

Nearly a year ago, Washington University School of Medicine installed seven Bigbelly waste and recycling units near the 4515 McKinley Research Building.  During this time, the cloud-connected platform that is part of the Bigbelly system has been gathering data pertaining to the collection efficiency of the unit and also measuring the diversion rate of trash to single stream recycling.

For those who are not familiar with the system, the Bigbelly Solar Trash Compactor is a waste disposal unit that compacts its contents in order to increase its collection capacity. Once it has been filled to a certain point, the receptacle automatically condenses the materials inside. By doing so, it can hold up to five times more waste than a trash unit of the same size.

Furthermore, the Connect by Bigbelly software, allows it to send out notifications when it is nearing its maximum capacity and when it’s full. Previously, employees were required to check and empty the trash cans daily, even when it may be unnecessary to do so. However, because of Bigbelly’s notification feature, employees only need to empty the contents upon getting an alert, therefore ensuring that they are collecting only once the unit has reached its capacity. This has led to the reduction of collection visits per container by 80 percent.

Among other benefits, thanks to the Bigbelly recycling systems placed on campus, 41 percent of waste collected was diverted from landfills and sent to single stream recycling.

After observing the positive results that Bigbelly’s system has had on the medical campus, we are eager to continue to analyze the data to see the long term impact that the devices might have moving forward.