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This solar panel garbage receptacle is newly placed on Church Street. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

by ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The next time you need to throw away your crumpled-up food wrappers or chewing gum while you’re walking along Church Street, there will be a different receptacle to drop your trash in.

Montclair has started installing a series of solar trash compactors — produced by Needham, Mass.-based company Bigbelly — in the downtown business district, to replace the open-topped black metal trash cans. The township had 40 of the devices installed along Bloomfield Avenue and Church Street over the Presidents’ Day weekend.

Communications Director Katya Wowk said on Tuesday that the initial suggestion for installing solar compactors came from Craig Brandon, the operations supervisor for the township’s community services department. Representatives from the solar compactor manufacturer Bigbelly delivered a presentation about the devices to the council in June.

The bins have a capacity of 150 gallons, which the Bigbelly website claims is five times the capacity of more conventional bins.

The township put the project out to bid last year, and Bigbelly came in with the lowest bid at $72,474.84, she said. The cost includes the one-time installation fee of $3,852; $335 for 10 cases of bags for the compactor bins; and an annual service charge of $68,307.84, or $5,692.32 per month.

Wowk said that it was expected that the solar compactors would lead to a savings in overtime costs, since sanitation crews would likely have to make fewer trips to empty the bins. She said that Montclair has entered into a three-year contract with Bigbelly, and it is estimated that the overtime savings will amount to $15,000 a year, or $45,000 over three years.

Israel Cronk, the chair of the Montclair Center BID, told the Montclair Local that there had been concerns about hygiene, graffiti and illegal dumping related to the open trash cans.

“We found out that any trash cans in a business district are only for pedestrian and shopping trash like wrappers, napkins, cups, newspapers, etc.” He said that Brandon had told the BID staff that there had been problems with residents and businesses using the on-street trash cans to dispose of household trash or commercial trash. “We hope businesses and residences will dispose of their trash properly in the future,” Cronk said.

He also noted that Montclair Center was working with a local company to have a water-repellent coating applied to the bins, in order to deter graffiti and vandalism.

Both Cronk and Wowk said that the feedback from pedestrians and merchants had been positive, even though the project was still in its early stages, though Cronk noted that one or two of the businesses had asked that the compactors be moved away from the front doors.

“We, at Montclair Center BID, are as curious and optimistic as anyone else. We hope the Bigbellys will help keep our district clean if not cleaner. We will be open to feedback, so we can help the township make a well-informed decision at the end of the test cycle,” Cronk said.

Cronk said that the old garbage cans would be inventoried and put into storage until the trial period was completed.

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