Participatory Budgeting in Cambridge, MA  |  The Community Votes to “Clean Up Cambridge” with Bigbelly

The results are in! Nearly seven thousand Cambridge, MA residents voted to decide how to spend the city’s capital project budget for FY 2020. The goal? Fund projects that residents felt would improve the community for the greater public! We are excited that a proposed project to ‘Clean Up Cambridge by installing more Bigbelly smart waste and recycling systems to create cleaner public spaces won the community’s vote!

The Clean Up Cambridgeproject is set to upgrade existing trash barrels and recycling containers. This will keep the streets clean, prevent pests from being drawn to waste bins, and make it easier to properly dispose of different kinds of waste. With these additional funds, the City will be able to accelerate its 5-year waste management plan and have broad impacts where residents expressed the greatest need.

Clean Up Cambridge

Committee: Environment
Total Cost: $125,000
Locations: Replacing existing open bins throughout Cambridge

big_bellyWith these additional funds the City will be able to accelerate its 5-year waste management plan. This project will add improvements to waste and recycling, and add signage to help better use these new features most effectively. This project will have broad impacts on Cambridge where residents have expressed the greatest need.

New Bigbelly Solar Trash Compactors – This project will fund the replacement of 10-12 open trash bins with the new Bigbelly bins. The Bigbelly bins have several advantages over standard open bins. First, they act as a trash compactor so that the bins need to be emptied less often. The compacting is completely solar powered.  Next, the bins can monitor how full they are and can call for city workers to empty them once they reach capacity.  This also helps to more efficiently use city labor.  Finally, these bins are enclosed, meaning that rodents and other pests will be unable to get into the garbage, which will keep them away from the areas where these bins are emplaced.

Attached Bigbelly Recycling – Attached to the above bins will be recycling bins.  In order to help people sort between waste and recycling it’s important to have waste and recycle bins next to each other.  This project will also add recycling bins to existing Big Belly Solar Compactors to make this easier.  These recycling bins also monitor how full they are just like the Big Belly waste bins, and are also enclosed, providing many of the same benefits.


Participatory Budgeting

How did Cambridge residents get to vote on these projects? Participatory Budgeting! This “empowers people to decide together how to spend public money” according to the Participatory Budgeting Project website, the non-profit organization behind this community-centric effort. 

In December 2018, citizens ages 12 and up voted on where they wanted their city’s money spent in the coming year for improvements. Previously PB-funded projects in Cambridge include public toilets, solar panels, bike repair stations, street trees, water bottle fill stations, bilingual books for children learning English.

Over a thousand project ideas were submitted to Cambridge’s fifth Participatory Budgeting (PB) cycle for the budget year starting in July 2019. “The City hopes that PB will help directly involve residents in the budgeting and City-building process, foster civic engagement and community spirit, and help ensure that the City’s Capital Plan reflects the priorities of Cambridge residents” (Source: City website).

The following 6 projects won $925,000 in FY20 Capital Funding:

Learn more about the City’s Participatory Budgeting and the projects:


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