Case study: Nambucca Shire Council trials solar powered bins


PWPro talks solar powered, Big Belly Bins with Nambucca Shire Council Assistant General Manager of Engineering Service, Paul Gallagher as the council trials a number in its shire.

How do the Big Belly Solar Compactor bins work?
In the traditional bins, you put your waste into it and then you come and collect it. What we’ve been doing is looking for different alternatives so we can get longevity out of not emptying them as often as required.  

On the top of the bins, there’s a solar panel that’s under a perspex casing, which is supposedly vandal proof. We’ll soon find out. What it does is collect the solar power and charges the battery inside and underneath that panel. The bins have a sensor in them, which detects when the waste gets to a certain height and compacts it down.

How did you find out about the bins
When I went on the IPWEA study tour last year, we saw them in Anaheim to start off with. They showed us how they worked and how they put them through the various council areas. I then saw them in Chicago and then travelling through Europe we spotted them as well.

We spoke to the people over in Chicago and Anaheim and they were finding that, where they traditionally had to empty their bins four or five times a day, they were getting away with one empty a day with the new bins. 

Conversely, if they were emptying them every day or second day they were getting an extra three days out of the bin.

How much do they cost and where can you get them?
They are worth $5000 each (compared to $2000 for traditional bins) and they are an American technology. It’s fairly new to Australia. We are pleased to say we are the first council on the mid-north coast to put them in.

What impact have the bins had in your area?
We do a lot of manual collection here in Nambucca. We’ve been doing an analysis of our waste and it’s only about 200 tonnes a year. We’re emptying every day, seven days a week and some bins only have one piece of paper in them.

We’ve introduced these bins on the main street in Nambucca, some main parks in Belwood Park and Anzac Park in Nambucca Head and also on the river foreshore in Maxville. What we are finding is where we were emptying the bins every day, we are now in some cases getting seven days out of the bins. In other high use areas, like the main street, we are emptying them every second day.

How is the trial going?
We’ve had it installed now for nearly three weeks. At the start of the trial our guys were still going to empty them every day. Old habits die hard. We’re now set up so the signal goes straight from the bin to our supervisor’s office iPhone and computer when they get to 80 per cent full, then we’ll go and empty the bin then.

We’ve just gone through a fairly busy tourist period with a couple of big events in Nambucca and the bins performed beyond ourexpectation on the main street. They created a lot of comment from the general public. They hadn’t seen anything like it before.

We were having a lot of issues with illegal dumping of rubbish in the main street from businesses and that and since we’ve put these in that has all ceased as well. So, the Chamber of Commerce is pretty ecstatic.

What next after the trial?
Our long-term goal is to remove all of the 240 litre standalone bins around the shire and hopefully we can get a fleet of these in to get the economies of scale. We’ve now installed 15 of the solar powered bins. We were originally going to put nine in. We will then hopefully install another 15 this financial year.  

We are also reducing our bins in other areas. We’ve gone from a 240 litre bin down to a 60 litre pole bin in the out of areas so instead of collecting rubbish from these bins with a big garbage truck we can go around with a utility.

Paul first found out about the solar-powered bins on an IPWEA study tour. IPWEA (NAMS.AU), in association with its sister organisation NAMS NZ, is pleased to announce a new six-day asset management study tour to New Zealand on 19-24 October 2014. 

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