Big Belly

BigBelly Solar

Optimizing Systems to Make Green Technology a Reality

Big BellyChallenge

Create a self-contained trash compaction system that reduces a municipality’s annual collection costs and provide a truly green solution.


The Big Belly solar powered trash compaction system, the culmination of extensive technology optimization and system integration. It relies completely on solar power to drive the compactor mechanism and to communicate wirelessly to the sanitation dispatcher when the can is full. This collection route optimization reduces diesel emissions by as much as 80%, as well as headcount – resulting in potential annual cost savings of 60%. The favorable impact of this integrated system was so successful, it also caught the attention of CNN.


We began the program by exploring the technology system requirements for the forces needed to crush the contents while utilizing only onboard stored solar power. The power budget had to provide enough compaction force, and also run the sensing and communication systems.

Big BellyOur optimization of the crushing mechanics was the result of a very iterative “design – build – evaluate” bread boarding strategy. The sensing system was designed to communicate with dispatch when the can was full, resulting in a highly optimized collection route.

We engineered the system to withstand all of the abuses both man and nature can offer. The solar array assembly withstands a six foot cinder block drop, and all of the electronic compartments withstand a jet of water from any direction. We also worked to manage the production costs in two ways: by minimizing the amount of material needed to provide structure, and by optimizing the labor time by focusing the design effort on a sub-system assembly approach.

BigBelly has been adopted by most of the country’s largest cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, and is currently helping to keep communities clean and efficient in 46 states and 30 countries worldwide.

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