By Leslie Frick
If you're like me, you're constantly fighting belly bulge. However, I'm excited about the new Big Belly trash and recycle bins that Stillwater has brought in to help fight overflowing refuse bins. Recently walking downtown, I noticed three Big Bellies in the Lowell Park Plaza, plus one near Alfresco Casual Living, one in front of The Tilted Tiki, and one in front of the Main Street Cafe. My husband pointed out another Big Belly outside Victoriano’s Pizza and the Stillwater Art Guild.
The thinking behind these bins is genius — trash compactors are designed right into the garbage bin. This lets them hold up to five times more garbage. Not only that, when the can is full, but it also sends a wireless signal to alert the trash hauler to make a pick-up. Amazingly, all the power for the compactor and the wireless signal comes from a solar panel mounted on the top of the, uh, belly bin.
Fewer trips to empty the bin means fuel is saved (garbage trucks get less than 3 miles per gallon) and emissions are reduced as well! It doesn't get greener than that! It's a win/win situation and saves money. Another plus is that birds, squirrels, and rats are out of luck if they're looking for a stray snack from a Big Belly.
Tim Moore, Stillwater's Public Works Superintendent, came up with the idea for the Big Bellies that were purchased in 2020 with a Washington County grant. As the popularity of our Lift Bridge bike and hiking loop grows, perhaps another Big Belly could join the Chestnut Street Plaza scene.
A final note: when recycling, we need to be aware of what we can actually recycle: uncoated paper, glass and aluminum beverage containers, and plastic bottles #'s 1, 2, and 5. Only. Minnesotans have a lot to be proud of — 85% of recyclables collected are actually recycled! So keep feeding that Big Belly!
You probably already recycle the water bottles you take when enjoying our lovely biking and hiking trails. Can it get any better? Consider upping your green game. Consider that your single-use plastic water bottle is made mostly of crude oil and water. It takes about three liters of water to make a single bottle! Then it takes oil to transport the bottles to the bottling company and then more to get the bottled water to the consumer. And then it takes even more energy to recycle the bottle! But here's another win/win proposition: invest in a reusable water bottle. You can save a ton of money. (Bottled water is 300 times more expensive than tap water.) Consider choosing an insulated tumbler for these hot Minnesota summer days we're having. It will help you keep your cool. And, hey man, who doesn't want to be cool?
Leslie Frick is a member of SustainableStillwaterMN.org m a 501c3 nonprofit.