Temporary Housing for Trash: Can Solar Trash Can/Compactors Help Curb Litter? (by Christie Allen)


Litter is a big problem for the environment and one potential way to cut down on litter is to provide more trash cans. These cans are not meant to replace more sustainable practices like recycling and re-using, but rather keep trash that would be on the ground contained. The newest type of trash can are solar powered, and use the rays of the sun to compact the trash and make the need for pickups fewer.

My name is Christie and I have been volunteering for the last few months with the organization SOLVE http://solveoregon.org/ helping to clean up our wetlands and beaches. Each day people create many pounds of garbage a piece, and we need some place to put it all. I have realized through my volunteer time that there is a need for more trash cans in public and I am curious if the solar trash compactors are the answer to the problem of litter? A majority of the complaints about more cans is the cost of upkeep. Would the solar cans help this by needing to be emptied far less, while also reducing CO2 emissions and instead help keep litter of the streets?

The following journal and newspaper articles offer research and insight into the addition of solar powered trash cans/compactors into our public spaces and whether they would provide an impact in reduction of litter. Hopefully you can take a moment to look over my collection of research and find some useful information to either take away with you or to use in a call to action against litter. I have provided information below the sources about how you can help fight litter and in turn help the environment.


Culgin, Kara, Dore Mangan, and Jessica Pool. “Benefit Cost Analysis of Big Belly Solar Compactors in City of Seattle Parks.” The Evans School Review 31 (2013): 51-61. Web. 27 May 2016.


This article is about two different approaches to using Big Belly solar compactors in the public parks in Seattle Washington. It compares the cost and benefits of the two plans against each other and talks about the benefits to litter reduction, reduced vehicle emissions, and a reduction in cost of maintenance and time spent emptying and repairing the trash cans. The authors extensively researched the positive and negative impacts of replacing all of the cans in the public parks versus just a few cans being changed out. This article does a good job of providing information on whether the cans are economically effective for the purpose of reducing litter even though their price tag is rather steep to begin with.


Lazaro, Joan P., and Alexis John M. Rubio. “Solar Powered Electronic Trash Can.” Asia Pacific Journal of Mulitdisciplinary Research 2.5 (2014): 33-37. Web. 27 May 2016.


This article talks about the workings of the solar powered trash can and how it uses the sun to open and close for the insertion of trash. This article was written about the use of these trash cans with children and addresses the idea behind promoting solar power as well as the proper disposal of trash instead of littering. The cans also promote proper segregation of trash which means fewer mixed items of trash in recyclables. This article helps to clarify a little of how these trash cans are developed and work as well as showing that proper use of this technology can help the fight against litter. The authors, one a degreed engineer and professor of engineering, and the other in the department of engineering at the University of the East, have extensive background into how things work and what they need to be successful and also in determining if they will be successful. Through their research they have deemed the solar powered trash can in all of its applications a useful tool and they also cite information about Big Belly.


Oregonian/OregonLive, Dillon Pilorget | The. “Smart, Solar-powered Trash Compactor Replaces Forest Grove’s Busiest Bin.” OregonLive.com. 2015. Web. 30 May 2016.


This article from the Oregonian talks about the replacement of a trash can with a Big Belly can where the busiest garbage can was in Forest Grove, Oregon. The article talks about the fact that the can signals over a “cloud” system when it is full, eliminating unnecessary trip to empty it which would cause more polluting and cost tax payers more. It also requires less frequent trip for emptying because it compacts, as well as keeping garbage off the streets and making the street cleaner. The idea is to see how successful this can is before considering installing more. The trash can does help to reduce litter because it has more room and is emptied when it is full using technology. It also has the potential to reduce cost after the initial installation. The author is a journalist from the Oregonian who visited the site of the can as well as followed up some months later to say that the can was still operational.


How to get involved:

There are numerous ways to get involved in the fight against litter and help our planet.

  • You can search and register for SOLVE events at the link above. They have something for all age groups and abilities and they are organizing new events each month to fit busy schedules.
  • City of Portland website https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/41461 focusing on garbage, recycling, and sustainability: includes drop off locations and events for recyclables as well as food scraps, and other information on garbage and sustainability practices in the Portland area.
  • Also you can write to your local authorities about what your city is doing to increase both recycling areas and trash receptacles in areas where there are none.
  • Big Bellyhttp://bigbelly.com/leading makers of solar powered trash can/compactors.















  1. Vicki Lee

    I enjoyed watching you this term be so involved in different activities which involved cleaning trash up. You mentioned you and done a beach clean up and you had fun with your family. It is very inspiring to get my kids involved as well. I really liked reading your article above and seeing all the activities you have been involved in.
    In your piece you mentioned SOLVE, being an organization who focuses on trash clean up. By reading your article, it makes me want to do some research and find out more about this organization. I think you got me curious and I think this is what you are suppose to do with your article. Good Job Christie!!!!! Keep up the great work.

  2. Crystal Fiederl

    I really enjoyed this piece like I have enjoyed all of your writing this semester. I think that taking care of the environment is very important and starting with way to dispose of trash is very easy start! The solar trashcans I think are a great idea and I have seen them in Seattle and even in Portland. I am from Montana where there are no recycling plans, and barely any trashcans in the city. I really wish even smaller cities would make these changes too. Great job!

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