More Bigbellies on Block Island

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 4:00pm

Tourism is perhaps the major economic driver of Block Island. One of the unfortunate by-products is the amount of garbage and waste produced. New Shoreham battles the onslaught of waste produced by commercial tourism through the use of trash and recycling cans located throughout the town, cans that are serviced by Block Island Recycling Management.
BIRM’s owner, Sean McGarry, says in his 30 years working in this capacity, the trash cans in town have always had problems with overflow, requiring frequent emptying. McGarry says the town, which owns the cans, has gone through several different types of receptacles over the years, and has finally found a solution: Bigbelly waste and recycling stations.
Each can has a trash compactor inside that allows the can to compact the waste and recycling items, thereby reducing the frequency with which they need to be serviced. When the “smart” cans are full, they send a signal to alert McGarry that they need to be emptied. He reports that the Bigbelly cans are emptied half as often
as traditional cans. The cans are powered by solar panels on their tops, and sensors inside initiate the compacting feature when the trash reaches a certain level.

The town has been converting its traditional cans over to Bigbellies ever since BIRM ran a pilot program a couple of years ago. BIRM bought the first two cans out of its own funds to try them out, as the price is a bit high and it was difficult to convince people that the merits outweighed the cost. The cans run about $5,000 apiece, and McGarry started the program with one Bigbelly for trash and one for recycling placed in front of Old Harbor Takeout. After seeing the cans in action, and seeing that they will hold up to the stresses of Block Island’s weather and tourists, the town has been replacing the traditional cans with Bigbellies. The Solar Initiative
funded five sets of Bigbellies for use this summer, at the request of the Old Harbor Task Force.
There are six sets now, spread throughout town at various locations: Old Harbor Takeout, Block Island Grocery, the National Hotel, Red Bird Liquor Store, Island Free Library, and Esta’s Park. There are three new sets planned for Heinz Field, Ball O’Brien Park, and the Town Beach pavilion, purchased with a Resource Recovery Grant from the state. The Old Harbor Task Force has requested the Solar Initiative to fund another three sets for the Inn at Old Harbor, the Empire Theatre, and Rebecca’s Take-Out. McGarry says with the addition of these cans, all the traditional cans will have been replaced with Bigbellies, except for the set at Finn’s Restaurant. He said there was also talk of placing a set at Nicholas Ball Park, although no concrete plans are in place yet.

Besides improving the appearance of Block Island by virtually eliminating overflowing trash cans in town, Bigbellies offer environmental benefits. Fewer service calls to empty the cans means fewer trips of the trash trucks around the island, which means lowered greenhouse gasses and emissions. According to McGarry, trash trucks and their diesel engines are notorious pollution culprits. McGarry said the new cans require “substantially less emptying.” And fewer overflowing trash cans substantially improves the appearance of Block Island.