November 15th 2013 marked the 16th year of “America Recycles Day.” This year, New York City contributed to this initiative with the largest recycling pilot program in the world, at the crossroads of the world: Times Square.
The Bloomberg administration teamed up with Big Belly Solar, The Alcoa Foundation and the Times Square Alliance to launch a program for 30 solar powered recycling units in Times Square. The pilot program launched in March, was strategically placed in Times Square to combat some 15,000 pounds of trash which accumulates every day and to generate public awareness of the recycling program for the half million visitors who frequent Times square daily.
These highly efficient trash bins collect cans and bottles, paper and garbage, as solar panels provide energy to compact the waste, enabling them to hold five times the amount of conventional bins. The solar panels also send a wireless signal to Times Square Alliance Staff alerting them when the bins are reaching their capacity and require pickup.
The solar garbage cans also provide immense savings on the staff time spent collecting refuse. On average, refuse collections were made 4.2 times per week as compared to 4 times per day before the program was in place.
© Times Square Alliance
The Big Belly Solar Units also provide an 80% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that are normally released in conventional waste processing plants. The best news for New Yorkers and tourists on this year’s “America Recycles Day” was that the Times Square Alliance added 16 more stations to the New York City’s most populous neighborhood. The extra bins will certainly come in handy this year when one million people fill Times Square to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. These initiatives are extremely encouraging for the future of recycling in New York City and with continued efforts and funding, these solar trash bins may be a common fixture on NYC streets in years to come.
Catherine is Conservation Corps Fellow at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation