San Antonio’s parks are about to get a lot more green, but not because of grass.

The Office of Sustainability, in conjunction with Parks and Recreation, Centro, and the Alcoa Foundation, will introduce new solar trash and recycling compactors at Madison Square Park, Thursday at 10 a.m.

BigBelly compactors from BigBelly Solar are divided into two compartments, creating capacity for both trash and recycling. As the receptacles fill up, they regularly compact their contents. Once filled, a wireless signal is transmitted, triggering pick-up. On average, a BigBelly can hold five times the trash of a normal waste receptacle, according to the company. After Philadelphia began using the compactors, pickups were reduced from 17 pickups to only five a week.

BigBelly compactors are not just efficient. They also are solar-driven, and batteries can function for several weeks in less-than-optimal sunlight.

A $75,500 grant from the Alcoa Foundation to Centro San Antonio is funding the initial 11 compactors will be divided among four parks: Madison Square, Brackenridge, Maverick, and Lions Field. While there are no plans in store for placing the compactors in other city parks, Douglas Melnick, director of the City’s Office of Sustainability, called the plan “another step in providing sustainability,” and said there was a possibility for more units in the future.

A side view of a BigBelly station explains which items can be thrown away and which can be recycled. Courtesy photo.
A side view of a BigBelly station explains which items can be thrown away and which can be recycled. Courtesy photo.

“It’s always a funding issue; we’re interested in seeing how they perform,” Melnick said.

Centro’s Director of PID Operations, Jimmy Richards, said the average cost of the compactor being used, the BigBelly Smart Double Station, comes in around $4,240. As part of Centro’s partnership with the City, Centro had been purchasing trash cans and recycling bins for downtown parks.

The compactors will cut down on the number of waste pick-ups, and the associated vehicle use and emission s in a city struggling to maintain its relatively good air quality.

“As opposed to other trash cans which have to be emptied on a daily basis, these can go much longer,” Melnick said.

The compactors, which have been used successfully all over the country, are expected to help keep the parks cleaner as well, reducing overflowing trash and providing an efficient way to get rid of garbage.

“It really does increase people’s usage getting their trash in the right place,” Melnick said.

Though BigBelly compactors are already at work in Crockett and Conner Parks, Melnick said Thursday’s event is less about introducing the compactors and more of a celebration.

“It’s celebrating the fact we were able to secure this grant,” Melnick said. “We want to highlight any time we can leverage city resources with private dollars.”

“I think you’ll be impressed,” Richards said.

Featured/top photo: A BigBelly Smart Double Station, similar to the receptacles being introduced at four city parks. Courtesy photo. 

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Adrian Ramirez

Editor and writer Adrian Omar Ramirez is a recent graduate of Texas State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he was a news reporter at the University Star. A native to Abilene,...