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Trash goes high tech at UC Merced
UC Merced Solar Trash Bins
The trash bins at UC Merced use solar energy to compact the waste and send out an email alert when they reach capacity. - photo by Photo Contributed

University of California, Merced is taking trash collection to the next level by incorporating new high-tech, solar-powered receptacles onto their campus.

Produced by Big Belly Solar, these innovative trash bins will use solar panels to compact waste down automatically and reduce the amount of overflow throughout the campus.

The eighteen bins, which have been primarily placed along UC Merced’s Scholars Lane, cost approximately $4,000 each and separate refuse into landfill, recycling, or compost. Although they have only been positioned along the main walkway, the campus will consider adding more throughout the campus if they prove to be a good investment.

“We are going to evaluate and see how these work and if they work well, we will probably be interested in purchasing more throughout the campus,” said Matt Hirota, waste reduction and recycle coordinator at UC Merced.

The solar-powered trash receptacles use solar panels to power a compacter, which pushes waste levels down automatically. When the bins have reached their limit, they can respond by sending an email to alert the appropriate staff.  

UC Merced hopes that these new receptacles will prevent the overflowing of waste throughout the campus, which was a problem with previous trash cans. With the elimination of overflow that often occurred after student events, the campus aims to reduce the presence of raccoons and create a cleaner looking campus.

Amongst other benefits, the bins are slated to save money, reduce litter, and decrease the university’s carbon footprint. Hirota also mentioned that the bin’s emailing feature eliminates the need for the grounds crew to continuously go out and check the levels of waste, thus freeing up labor and making the task of keeping the campus clean easier.

“We don’t have to send people out to do a job that doesn’t need to be done,” added Hirota. “When you look at the costs of the cleanup every day, it makes it worthwhile.”