You may have seen solar panels attached to parking meters or highway traffic signals. Now there dumpsters powered, at least a bit, by solar panels.
Waste Management last week said that it has developed a product called the SmartEnergy Compactor that uses a solar panel to operate the controls of a compacting dumpster.
The dumpster can also be remotely monitored to indicate how full it is, which can save fuel in unnecessary disposal truck runs.
The technology behind the electronic control system originated at Big Belly Solar, which makes public trash and recycling bins equipped with solar panels that power a motor to compact the trash. Waste Management invested in Big Belly Solar in 2009. The solar waste bins have been popular with some municipalities because they can be emptied less frequently.
The small solar panel on Waste Management's SmartEnergy Compactor isn't big enough to operate the compactor's motor, which is run by the grid. But the solar panels power the control and monitoring system, reducing electricity use by 70 percent compared to traditional compacting dumpster.
Waste Management said the solar panel system saves money on hauling and is a visible way for dumpster users to use renewable energy. The company also distributes Big Belly Solar's solar-powered waste bins.