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Pico Rivera Council Approves Smart Waste Collection Pilot Program at Smith Park

The Pico Rivera City Council approved the solar-powered Bigbelly Smart Waste can above.

September 18, 2023

By Brian Hews • [email protected]

By Brian Hews

The Pico Rivera City Council, at its Tuesday meeting, approved an innovative Smart Waste Collection Pilot Program at Smith Park to be funded by Senate Bill 1383 Fee Funds, monies the city has collected from residential and commercial waste accounts since July 2021 for the specific purpose of improving waste diversion rates.

The council voted 5-0 to award the contract to Bigbelly, Inc. for the purchase of fifty smart waste bins for nearly $287,000.

Bigbelly trash bins are a type of smart, solar-powered waste management system that aims to improve the efficiency and sustainability of waste collection in urban and public spaces.

The bins are designed to solve the many problems associated with traditional trash collection, such as overflowing cans, inefficient routes for collection trucks, and high operational costs.

They are used in cities across the U.S. and the world, from Portland, Oregon to Dubai, Saudi Arabia.

When a Bigbelly bin reaches a certain level of waste, the solar-powered compactor activates and compresses the trash, reducing its volume. The compaction process can increase the bin’s capacity several times compared to a regular trash bin.

The bins would be connected to the appropriate city department via wireless communication, which allows city waste collection personnel to monitor the bins in real-time using a web-based platform or a mobile app.

The monitoring will allow city employees to see which bins need emptying so they can prioritize routes, reducing the need for unnecessary collections and preventing overflows, making the waste collection process more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Bigbelly bins are made with triple, double, and single “stream systems.” The triple bin system consists of waste, recyclables, and organics; the double bin includes waste and recyclables; and the single bin consists of solely recyclable bins.

The different bins will be strategically placed inside Smith Park. The triple bins will be placed near concession stands; the double bins will primarily replace single waste bins, and the single bins will replace the current bins found near the baseball field dugouts.  

In its council report, Pico Rivera Staff found that implementing a smart waste collection program would drastically reduce the number of collections from fourteen to two per week, an 85% reduction in collections.

The collection reduction would save nearly 1,600 labor hours that would be reallocated toward other park maintenance activities, such as cleaning bathrooms, field maintenance, irrigation repair, and litter pick-up.  

The labor savings are estimated to be $160,000; with a reduction in other equipment and material costs, the city would save an additional $23,000.

The Bigbelly bins will improve recycling rates from 17% to 60%. Additionally, it will reduce the annual plastic bag usage by nearly 30,000.

Finally, the program is expected to reduce annual waste to landfills by 69%, increase recycling rates by 112% and reduce vehicle mile traveled, known as VMT, by nearly 10,000 miles, removing 7.6 tons of harmful auto emissions from the environment.

Pico Rivera City Manager Steve Carmona told LCCN, “The City of Pico Rivera is taking a bold step towards sustainability with its smart waste collection pilot program at Smith Park. By implementing solar-powered trash compacting bins that not only comply with state recycling mandates but also offer a threefold capacity increase, reduced collection frequency, and enhanced security against pests, we are making a resounding commitment to a greener future.” 

Carmona continued, “These innovations, coupled with solar panels for sustainable operation and fullness sensors for optimal waste collection, will not only reduce landfill waste but also drive operational efficiency, leading to significant cost savings. Pico Rivera is proud to be a dedicated steward in the region, showcasing our unwavering commitment to sustainable practices.”

Pico Rivera Mayor Erik Lutz told LCCN, “We are excited to incorporate Big Belly waste bins in our city, starting with Smith Park as the pilot site.  The advantages of our new bins are many.  While standard trash bins are open to the elements and often susceptible to odors during summer months.  Big Belly bins are much larger in capacity and have a trash compacting element allowing 5 times more capacity.  Once waste goes in, it can’t come out.  The bins are fully enclosed with no visible waste and no windblown litter, eliminating a food source for pests and keeping your space safer.”

Lutz continues, “Overall, the advantage of holding 5 times the capacity of traditional bins  means fewer collections by staff allowing them to tend to other matters of beautification. We’ve made it our mission to beautify our streets, our neighborhoods, our Parks and now our new waste bins which have an attractive design and functionality.”