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Chicago trash cans go solar-powered

March 7, 2011 at 1:49 PM

CHICAGO, March 7 (UPI) -- The city of Chicago has signed a deal to buy $2.5 million worth of solar-powered trash compactors for the city's central business district, officials said.

The city has contracted with a Massachusetts company for 400 trash compactors for the business district where pedestrian traffic is heavy and trash bins require frequent collections, the Chicago Sun Times reported Monday.

The solar-powered units hold five times the garbage of a normal trash can and have built-in sensors that alert the city when they're full.

The purchase, paid in part with federal stimulus funds, follows a test of five united in the city's Loop.

"This initiative will help the city continue providing services during these difficult economic times with our more limited personnel resources," Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith said.

"Benefits are both economic and environmental. Since units are solar-powered, they don't need an external power source. They compact the trash, so Streets and Sanitation makes fewer trips to empty them. ... Trucks are out less, use less fuel and produce less emissions."

The trash compactors resemble a mailbox, complete with a pull-open door.

"The machine senses when trash reaches a certain level and triggers the compactor, which is powered by a solar-powered battery," Smith said.

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