Sea Horse Power Co., bigbelly.com

“Garbage can” might be too crude a term for BigBelly, a solar-powered trash receptacle from Sea Horse Power Co., Needham, Mass., that compacts waste. It holds four times more trash than other waste receptacles with the same footprint. So although it is has only a 32-gallon bin, BigBelly holds 180 gallons of uncompressed trash. And because it holds so much more trash, collection trucks can cut back on pick-up schedules, saving gas and time.

The leakproof housing and all materials are RoHS compliant. It is made mostly of recycled materials — plastic and sheet metal. A polycrystalline silicon cell protected by a polycarbonate bubble generates about 30 W of nominal power. The solar cell keeps a spillproof 12-V battery charged. The battery, in turn, powers a 1/6 -hp dc gear motor that uses a chain drive to compact trash, exerting 1,250 lb of force over a 41-sec. compacting cycle. A microprocessorbased controller senses trash levels and monitors system status. The 300-lb device costs about $3,000.

BigBelly also comes with CLEAN — Collection Logistics Efficiency and Notification. It lets the device wirelessly send text messages to an online server about its status, including how much trash it is holding. Those scheduling pick-ups can see which units are full by going to a password-protected Web site. Then they can send trucks only to cans that are actually full, or close to it, saving fuel and time.