Solar Bins Australia Founder and Managing Director Leon Hayes says Bigbelly compactor bins are a game-changer for councils and those overseeing bin collections.
When trying to complete an interview, it takes several calls and messages over a week to eventually speak to Leon Hayes. The founder of Solar Bins Australia is suddenly in high demand. His company is the exclusive national distributor for Bigbelly bins, which seem to have suddenly captured the imagination of those responsible for waste management in councils, shopping centres and public precincts.
In the last few days, Leon’s team has demonstrated the Bigbelly and completed 14 waste collection studies in sites as far apart as Gladstone, Westfield, Southbank in Brisbane, and Lorne. In August alone, City of Melbourne and Hume City Councils announced that they are installing Bigbelly to tackle overflowing bins in their streets.
“It’s just taken off,” says Leon. “Our team is continually travelling interstate demonstrating that Bigbelly bins do what we say they do.”
And what Bigbelly bins do is create efficiencies across two levels.
The first is compaction. Each one has 600 litres of capacity – it can hold up to eight times the volume of common street litter bins or five times the volume of your average 120-litre wheelie bin.
The second is smart collection, with each Bigbelly smart bin connected to the CLEAN software management system. This creates dynamic truck routes, so that only full bins get emptied.
Together, these factors can reduce truck movements by around 80 per cent. Fewer truck movements also contribute to lower pollution, less noise and improved safety.
The flagship hopper design, soon to be updated with a more hygienic touch-free disposal hatch, keeps litter inside and deters pests and vermin. This supports environmental services in maintaining clean, litter- free public spaces.
Bigbelly solar compactor systems offer council and commercial managers of public spaces a unique way to avoid overflowing, unsightly bins and reduce street waste collections.
Despite being solar-powered, it has been a slow burn for the US-designed Bigbelly bins to take off in Australia. Leon started his Queensland-based Solar Bins business in 2011. Shortly afterwards, it became the exclusive distributor of the solar compactor systems here.
Solar Bins’ first foray into Australia’s waste management market with Bigbelly was at the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE) 2013. The compactor won the expo’s Innovative Product award in November 2013. The technology was then awarded first prize in the Smart City Application category at the 2014/15 Internet of Things Awards.
“Much of our time between 2013 and early this year has been working with Bigbelly USA and our local customers to modify Bigbelly for the Australian market,” explains Leon.
Customised for Australia
While Bigbelly solar compactors can be found in 47 countries around the world, they needed adapting to work within Australian waste management practices. It was Bigbelly 1 when it was first launched in the US in 2003. It’s on its fifth iteration here.
Solar Bins, as the country’s sole Bigbelly distributor, became heavily involved in the research, development and testing with customers.
“In the USA and Europe, it’s still common for bins to be emptied manually,” Leon explains. “Whereas due to occupational health and safety requirements here, waste collection is a much more automated process.”
The team worked with the manufacturers to incorporate an internal bin into the compactor that worked like a wheelie bin, which enabled seamless integration with Australian side and rear load collection vehicles.
Another factor unique to Australia is its size and remoteness of locations within a municipal area. Waste collection services can cover areas of hundreds of square-kilometres. Therefore, the latest model is now equipped with GPS so clients can locate them.
The experience of implementation has also shaped Bigbelly’s development here.
“One of the things customers said to us was that they didn’t like the huge post box style handle or the risk of getting your hand trapped in there when it’s compacting,” Leon adds. “Engineers in the US are developing a foot pedal-operated release for the bin opening, which is due here in late October.”
In between design improvements, vigorous testing has been completed with local telecoms providers for the wireless mobile technology required.
Key to Bigbelly are its CLEAN remote management system and wireless sensor. Each Bigbelly has a SIM card that communicates to the CLEAN software through the mobile network. This alerts the client when a bin is 70 per cent and 85 per cent full, enabling timely deployment and captures data to better plan waste collections.
“Now we’ve got the product and service offering right, we’re ready for large-scale roll-out,” adds Leon.
According to Leon, a major challenge has been educating decision-makers that the bins actually do what the promotional material says.
Companies and councils installing Bigbelly compactors have seen an average reduction of 86% in bin collections, allowing them to stretch their waste management budgets.
“When Nambucca Shire Council first trialled them in 2014, they started with six units. They now have 29,” says Leon. “Its collections team used to do six pick-ups a week from its street litter bins, covering 1,200 kilometres. They now do three rounds, covering just 300 kilometres.”
Not only are Nambucca Shire saving on operational and labour costs, with a population of just 20,000, they are spending significantly less on fuel.
Bigbelly’s four square metres of space around the unit can also be used for companies to advertise and generate revenue for the client. The advertiser pays for the adverts on them, the council pays for the collections.
“The revenue is split between paying for the bins and realising a profit,” Leon adds. “The council receives a share of the advertising revenue and a reduction in their waste management operational costs. It’s a win, win, win model that has been successful in the US.”
Australian customers are already signing up for the system, as Bigbelly bins can be found in 22 Australian sites, including the high-profile location of the City of Melbourne.
For more details or to enquire about a demonstration visit www.solarbins.com.au or contact 1300 893 610.