Duluth, Minn. Teams Up with the Sun to Take Out its Trash

duluth-waterfront photo

The Duluth waterfront, on Lake Superior. Photo: rococohobo under a Creative Commons license.

Duluth, Minnesota is taking out its trash- and the sun is helping out. The City on Lake Superior announced on Thursday the debut of its Toss It Green initiative, to install twenty solar-powered trash compactors along its Lakewalk. The containers, half of which will be for trash, half for recycling, have built-in solar panels to power them, and will hold up to five times more refuse than traditional garbage cans. That means Duluth city workers won't have to head out every week to pick up and replace full bags. In fact, they never have to go out unnecessarily- each compactor has a sensor and a communication system, to alert workers when they are full. And if it rains? Each compactor also has a battery to keep it running when the sun isn't out.Duluth is just one of many cities around the world looking to lower the cost and environmental impact of trash. Roosevelt Island, in New York City, runs everything through pneumatic tubes, Italy has brought out a Wall-E-like robot to pick up the slack, and in other places people are just hauling their own.

The Lakewalk isn't the only spot in the old industrial city with the solar-powered trash compactors, though. The University of Minnesota Duluth first introduced a few last year, and is so happy with the results, it has ordered more. Campus Sustainability Coordinator Mindy Granley told the Duluth News Tribune:

They reduce the number of pickups we have to do. They help control litter. Before, if trash cans were filled too high the wind would blow the litter around. The students like that they are solar-powered. That's a cool thing for us to show some leadership in using some new technology.

Duluth is paying for the new system with the help of a $41,159 grant from the Department of Natural Resources Solar Legacy Grant Fund, which will cover 75% of the program's costs. The City has high hopes that Toss It Green will do enough to keep the local park system trash-free and the budget in the black (Mayor Don Ness said the program could reduce costs up to 75%) that it will be able to extend the program city-wide.

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