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BY T. SCHOEN | “You have an insane garbage problem. It’s disgusting! There’s no other way to describe it,” said Larry Marcus, a representative of Direct Environmental Corp., at a meeting of the Community Board 2 Environment Committee last Wednesday.
It’s no secret that New York struggles to maintain clean streets. But much of the garbage that overflows trash cans all across the city is, in fact, recyclable material. Failure to recycle isn’t only wasteful, it also takes up space in landfills and makes it more difficult to keep the streets clean.
To help address these issues, Direct Environmental Corp. has created the Big Belly Solar system, a mechanical, two-in-one waste receptacle.
Speaking before Marcus, Ron Gonen, the city’s deputy commissioner for recycling, gave a presentation on the city’s trash problem and how the high-tech bins could help address both this and people’s failure to properly dispose of recyclables, like bottles and paper.
The advanced garbage cans consist of a pair of midsized waste containers attached to one another, one designated for normal waste, and the other for paper, plastic and metal recycling. The machines, Marcus explained, in addition to being solar powered, shoot a laser across the interior of the can. When this laser is interrupted for an extended period of time, a compactor presses the garbage down, allowing for greater capacity and preventing overflows.
Although recycling has always been a popular idea, with designated bins scattered sparsely about the city on street corners, it is given considerably less attention than traditional trash cans.
“There are 25,000 trash cans in New York City,” Gonen stated. “You know how many recycling bins there are? One thousand.” More often than not, he and Marcus noted, people will indiscriminately just throw all of their waste into a bin, whether or not it is recyclable. The new cans, which have both a recycling bin and a traditional garbage can, will help eliminate that problem, though can’t control for intentional misplacement of waste.
Another issue raised during the meeting was illegal, mass-operating recycling collection.
“Trucks go around and fan out their people,” Gonen said. “They collect the cans and bring them back to the truck.”
The Big Belly Solar units, sporting closed tops, would make unauthorized pilfering of recyclable trash much more difficult.
The new compactor cans, despite their mechanical nature, require little maintenance.
“You just need to replace the battery every four years,” Marcus said.
But the new cans also are more costly.
“The normal recycling bins, the ones with the big tops, cost $1,200, and they don’t do anything,” he noted. “The new ones cost $3,000, and they compact the garbage.”
The hoped-for increase in recycling created by the compactor cans would benefit the city financially, as well.
“Five hundred thousand tons of landfill paper could actually be recycled right here in the city,” Gonen stated. Not only would more wastepaper be reclaimed for further use, the improved trash can technology would also justify an investment of “$85 million into one of the most advanced recycling centers in the country,” Gonen added.
Although the new receptacles are currently few in number in the city, Marcus said, referring to Community Board 2’s Village-area district, “The new recycling bins should be on Broadway very soon.”