As reported by the Denver Post, Lakewood’s “community-led effort helps minimize environmental impact” with their deployment of the Bigbelly smart waste and recycling system across key public parks and spaces. Lakewood’s Mayor unveiled the environmentally-friendly system during a ribbon cutting earlier this month. This community’s deployment marks the largest adoption of smart waste management and measurable recycling in the state of Colorado. Read on for more as published in the Denver Post.
A nearly three-year project to make recycling more accessible in Lakewood is coming to fruition. A pilot program including 71 solar-powered Bigbelly Smart Waste and Recycling Systems was approved by the City Council in October. The systems were recently installed in three of the city’s regional parks: William Frederick Hayden Park on Green Mountain, Bear Creek Greenbelt and Bear Creek Lake Park.
“I remember so vividly the day” the idea was formed, resident Trish Merkel said of the project’s conception in 2015. She was chair of the city’s Advisory Commission with Inclusive Community’s Sustainability Committee when the idea was developed and is still a member.
“There were about six of us brainstorming at a city park, and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if one day we actually come back to this park, and there are recycle bins and know that we had something to do with that?’”
At the time, only six recycling bins were available in four of the city’s 99 parks.
Merkel said inspiration struck not after seeing trash lying around the park, but rather after noticing a lack thereof.
“Lakewood residents are very good at cleaning up after themselves, and I love my community for that, but you’d walk by a trash can and see a bunch of water bottles in there, which easily could have been recycled,” she said.
Most of the 71 stations are made up of side-by-side, recycling and trash components. Through symbolism, color coding and manual operation, Bigbelly systems are geared toward helping people make informed decisions about recycling, said Bigbelly account manager Daniel Grzelak.
“They’re not open-top bins. No one can walk by and just mindlessly toss something in,” he said. “They have to make a choice; they have to pull a lever or step on a foot pedal to open the container. The systems are designed to help someone make a mindful decision about recycling.”
This will help minimize the risk of contaminants, like food and dirty diapers, being thrown into recycle bins, he added.
The Bigbelly receptacles also provide a smart waste management system, which the city hopes will save money and reduce greenhouse gases. The stations use solar-powered compactors to press the air out of waste and recyclables, allowing each vessel to hold up to 300 gallons. When full, Bigbelly stations send electronic notices, saving park staff members unnecessary trips to check empty or partially full containers.
Douglas County has used Bigbelly trash systems since 2012. According to a collection study from May 2013, an early deployment of 17 Bigbelly stations in Fairgrounds Regional Park in Castle Rock yielded $27,300 in savings the first year. The smart systems cut collection frequency from three or four times each week to once a week. In turn, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from trash collection vehicles dropped from nearly 8 tons down to 2.27 tons.
Since then, Douglas County has installed dozens of systems across the county.
“What I really appreciate is the ability to pull up the information on my smartphone,” Chris Williams, district supervisor for Douglas County Parks, said in a statement. He can monitor the battery voltage, collection frequency and how full each of the 54 bins are electronically. “Along with that, I receive an alert that something might be wrong with a can. Saves time and money.”
By 2025, Lakewood plans to achieve a 60-percent community-wide diversion rate, meaning out of all landfill-bound waste, 60 percent will instead be recycled, composted or re-used. The Bigbelly pilot program is a step toward accomplishing that goal.
“I really hope other communities will embrace (recycling),” Merkel said. “I really hope the program will expand within the city of Lakewood … and I think that we can be a resource for other communities.”
Source: Denver Post by Holly Graham