Big Belly

A Big Belly has been added to the strip of Kentucky Avenue known for eateries such as Chop Shop, Taco Bus, Palace Pizza and Fresco’s. But this belly has an expansive appetite for trash, not food. 

The waste compactor, manufactured by Bigbelly Solar Inc. of Needham, Mass., was moved to the restaurant row this morning from City Hall as part of a city experiment to see if the city should use more like it.

As the 4-foot-tall box fills up, a sensor triggers a solar-powered compactor to crush the waste, allowing it to hold 150 gallons of refuse, compared with 35 gallons for the current bins. (Here’s a fact sheet.)

City Solid Waste Manager Gene Ginn summarized advantages of the Big Belly at a recent meeting of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority:

  • It’s enclosed, so it won’t overflow, pests can’t get in, and rain and wind won’t scatter the waste. It’s also more tamper-resistant.
  • It will need emptying once a week compared with the current five times, saving time and money.
  • Waste levels can be monitored by computer to help manage collections.

The test model on Kentucky Avenue is on loan to the city. Assuming the test goes well, Ginn plans to seek City Commission approval in late March to purchase up to 30 units to replace the current 50 downtown waste containers.

The cost for 30 Big Bellys and the equipment to monitor them is estimated at $140,000, Ginn told the LDDA board.

The life expectancy of the Big Bellys is 10 years and the potential savings in labor and equipment is $20,000 to $30,000 a year. They have a three-year warranty.

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City Commissioner Don Selvage, a member of the LDDA board, said he was impressed by the savings and aesthetic potential of the Big Bellys. Should the test go well, he said, he will urge the other commissioners to buy all 30 at once rather than phase them in.

The units come in gray and black and have space for promotional signs. LDDA Director Julie Townsend said she would check with city officials to determine if there are any current rules governing advertising on the Big Bellys.

LDDA members also asked Ginn about plans for tamper-proof trash containers for  downtown alleys. Guinn said he’s given drawings for 76-inch-wide containers to the engineering department and is working on a plan to give the city manager soon.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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