City approves $135K solar-powered recycling bins, trash compactors

On Monday, the City of Winnipeg's innovation committee approved a pilot project that will see 15 solar-powered trash and recycling compacting receptacles set up around the city.

15 dual units to be installed throughout city in effort to reduce number of collections, save on fuel

Winnipeg plans to test out 15 solar-powered waste compactors to reduce trash and recycling pickup frequency and save money on related costs. (Supplied by City of Winnipeg)

Fifteen solar-powered garbage and recycling compacting bins will be set up in Winnipeg as the city tries to cut down on refuse collection trips, save money on fuel and bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

Innovation committee members approved a $135,000 pilot project Monday to purchase, install and train city staff to use and maintain the dual-units. The pilot project runs until the fall of 2019.

The bins squash down contents and can fit up to eight times the amount of refuse as a typical public garbage or recycling bin, Anderson says.

The receptacles come with sensors that remotely alert city crews when they are full and need emptying. The hope is the sensor system could help solve the problem of overflowing garbage bins.

Money for the pilot project will come from the innovation capital fund, which allocates money for system or technological innovations.

"Keeping our communities clean and green is a focus for the Public Service, and looking towards innovative solutions gives us an opportunity to trial a smart waste management solution," street maintenance manager Cheryl Anderson wrote in a report to innovation committee Monday.

City crews service more than 4,300 municipal garbage and recycling containers in parks, boulevards and community centres, athletic fields and other public lands, Anderson said. Over 1,500 of those are located at street right-of-ways, where the city is trying to reduce the number of litter containers.

Reduce collections by 80 per cent

A proposal in early January misestimated the cost of the project at $90,000. It was punted back to Anderson for revision, plus additional information on the experiences of other jurisdictions that have turned to the solar-powered receptacles.

Anderson says research suggests systems like the solar-powered trash bins could help bring down the number of collections by 80 per cent and save 75 per cent on collections costs. 

Anderson recommended buying units where only the trash side compacts, because she says compacting recycling can make later sorting a challenge.

The city hasn't yet released a request for proposals, but the report identifies two companies currently building the high-tech receptacles: Big Belly and Clean Cube.

70 units in Kenora

Big Belly put forward a base price estimate of $102,000 for 15 bins, plus $6,800 per bin annually in maintenance and related costs. Meanwhile Clean Cube quoted $106,000, plus $7,000 for each bin per year.

In her report, Anderson details the City of Kenora's experience with solar-powered units. About 70 of the garbage-recycling units made by Big Belly are scattered through the northwestern Ontario city of roughly 15,000 people.

The bins can be collected by one person and reduced litter in some areas, Anderson says. But they have also been know to have battery issues in the cold winter months.

A double-compacting recycling-trash bin has already been ordered by the Transcona Biz for $13,000 with plans to install it at 217 Regent Avenue West. 


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform Manitoba journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC.

With files from Bartley Kives