Solar compactor takes a huge bite out of energy consumption
It’s the latest innovation in green waste management, and the U of A has the distinction of being the first in Canada to purchase it: a solar-powered trash compactor.
Using a combination of solar power to run the electronics and electricity to power the compactor itself, the new green machine reduces energy consumption by between 50 and 70 per cent. Manufactured by Waste Management, the SmartEnergy compactor also has a sensor that alerts the company when the charge box is full, reducing the number of pickups by 40 per cent.
“When the compactor reaches a certain level, it phones our dispatcher and we’ll send a driver out to pick it up. The university never has to worry about it,” said Ray Dumouchel, associate director, Buildings and Grounds Services for the U of A. “It saves us money every time there is a pickup.”
Four solar compactors were purchased last March and installed in August and September, two in the loading dock behind the Biological Sciences building and two at the southwest corner of Edmonton Clinic. At each location, one is used for landfill wet waste and the other for paper and cardboard.
The university currently has 10 to 15 compactors on campus that could all be replaced with solar compactors if they turn out to perform as promised, said Dumouchel. “It represents our constant efforts to be proactive, and ways to be more efficient, effective and sustainable.”
When the university was looking to sign a new waste management contract back in 2006, he said, “we decided whoever the successful company was, they would have to look outside the box and continue to look for new, innovative ways of diverting waste.”
The company Waste Management came forward with by far the best proposal, Dumouchel said, and so the university signed a new contract for 10 years, “which is unheard of at a university, but Waste Management actually turned out to be the most proactive company.”
Innovations in recycling have been advancing rapidly, said Dumouchel. In 2008, for example, the U of A diverted just over 400 tonnes of waste from landfill. This year, it’s on target to divert slightly more than 1,000 tonnes: “We’re continually finding new methods and new processes, and the solar compactor is just part of that.”