February 19, 2013

CALS Introduces Solar-Powered Trash Can to Cornell

Print More

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences installed the University’s first solar-powered trash can outside of Roberts Hall last month in what the student behind the project touted as a step to reduce energy costs and increase environmental sustainability.

“The solar trash can … is a great example of CALS’ commitment to invest in new technologies to reduce costs, while working towards a sustainable future,” Kyle Ward ’13, the student who proposed installing the trash can.

According to Ward, cities and universities across the nation are purchasing and installing these solar trash cans, which, once full, automatically compact the trash and notify staff through a wireless Internet connection when they need to be emptied.

After spending two years researching the trash cans, called Big Belly Solar compactors, Ward –– co-chair of the CALS Dean’s Student Advisory Council –– contacted CALS Dean Kathryn Boor ’80 Spring 2012 to ask if the University would install one of its own solar-powered trash cans. The University agreed, and purchased the trash can, according to Ward.

Boor said she “enthusiastically embraced the concept when it was proposed by the [Student Advisory Council].”

“First and foremost, the concept represented a great student initiative. Second, the ideas behind the trashcan are innovative and forward-thinking and send a very positive message about applying CALS’ values to improve human lives,” Boor said.

According to Ward, the trash can reduces the number of trips staff need to take to empty it by 80 percent by sending data on how full the can is over Wi-Fi. By compacting the trash, the can also holds five times more trash than regular trashcans, Ward said.

Both factors, Ward said, result in trash trucks needing to use less gas to pick up waste.

Additionally, the trash cans — being solar-powered — need one hour of sunlight to power them for two weeks.

“This means, even in Ithaca, there is enough sunlight for solar trash cans,” Ward said.

Ezra Delaney, assistant dean of CALS capital projects and facilities services, lauded the fact that the trash cans will help save energy.

“It has gotten a lot of attention and helps educate the campus on the total cost of creating and handling waste,” Delaney said. “This is an interesting application of technology which should be evaluated as we work toward a more sustainable campus.”

Delaney said, however, that the University will still have to gage the impact of the can outside of Roberts Hall before deciding whether or not the University will purchase more.

In one scenario, Delaney said that the University may move the trash cans to different locations around campus to test how it handles greater volumes of waste.

Ward said he is optimistic that the University will join the ranks of universities such as Georgetown University, Boston University and Iowa State University, which have already adopted the widespread use of solar trash cans on their campuses.

“It’s my hope that Cornell will eventually switch to all solar-powered trash cans in its outdoor areas,” Ward said.

Before asking the University to purchase the solar-powered trash can, Ward said he was inspired by the City of Ithaca — which, in 2010, purchased and installed two solar-powered trash cans on the Commons.

At the time, Ward said he found little success in encouraging the University to increase installation of outdoor recycling and trash bins on campus.

“I knew I had to try to find a new route to take,” Ward said.

With the solar-powered trash can on Roberts Hall up and running, Ward said he hopes the can will “hopefully establish precedence and be followed by other colleges across the University.”

Original Author: Nikki Lee