BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
In February 2017, 40 Bigbellys — solar trash receptacles with smart technology— were installed on the streets of Montclair at a cost of $72,474.84. In 2018, the number of receptacles increased to 70, and the cost increased to $121,106. The town made the move over concerns about hygiene, graffiti and illegal dumping related to the open trash cans.
The solar-powered units provide greater efficiency because they run motorized compactors which greatly reduce waste volumes, allowing for up to five times the capacity of traditional trash bins. The receptacles also have built-in cloud computing technology which sends out an alert when a bin needs to be emptied or maintained. Overflowing trash cans are no longer an issue in Montclair, said officials.
The township signed a three-year contract in 2017 with the Massachusetts-based company, who came in as the lowest bidder. The bins are now located in the Bloomfield Avenue, South End, Upper Montclair and Walnut Street business districts.
The bins have a capacity of 150 gallons, which Bigbelly reps claim is five times the capacity of conventional bins. The need for maintenance, bags and visits to empty them are reduced, saving the town about $15,000 a year in sanitation crew overtime. Fuel costs are also cut with a drop in visits to the bins.
They also keep the streets cleaner, as the bin notifies the Department of Community Services through built-in cloud computing technology that sends out an alert when a bin is 80 percent full. In Montclair, the Bigbellys take about five days to fill up on average, with the average trash collection five times a month.
In 2018, the town paid leasing of $68,307 for 40 bins, $43,797 for the 30 additional single waste cans and $8,166 for four double stations, while liner bags costs were $835, totaling $121,106 in expenditures.
Of the $72,474.84 paid in 2017, there was an installation fee of $3,852, $335 for 10 cases of bags for the compactor bins; and an annual service charge of $68,307, or $5,692 per month.
Bigbelly announced last month that Montclair ranked as the best and most efficient user of the system worldwide in 2018, ahead of second-place Newham Council in the United Kingdom. The company’s global data analysis showed that Montclair had a 98 percent average efficiency rate last year, placing it at the very top of the world’s most efficient Bigbelly smart waste management list.
“We’re able to achieve such high efficiency rates because the report generation and analytical capabilities of the software are phenomenal, allowing us to track and measure our operations to optimize collection routines by location-based waste patterns,” said Craig Brandon, Solid Waste Supervisor. “We can minimize how often we collect waste from the bins which helps save on human labor, use of our trucks and fuel. Plus, overflowing trash cans are no longer an issue with the smart bins.”
Other towns in New Jersey that use the Bigbelly system, in the order of their efficiency ranking, are Maplewood (12th overall), Kearny (20th) and Franklin (23rd).
Operating in 54 countries and six continents, Bigbelly was founded on the premise that cities were either collecting too often and wasting fuel and labor costs while emitting excess CO2 or, failing to keep up with the demand, resulting in overflowing trash cans that created, litter, health, animal and safety issues.
“In our third year of analyzing Bigbelly global system data, we continue to be inspired by our customer successes,” said Montclair’s Bigbelly account manager Nick Jenner. “To achieve those numbers with such consistency requires a deep knowledge of the Bigbelly system and, critically, a team that has totally bought into the way you’re asking them to manage collections.”