Much of the trash on Newbury Street will no longer be blowing in the wind. Or overflowing from the barrels. Or considered food for animals at night.
The Newbury Street League teamed up with the city to purchase and install six Big Belly trash receptacles, strategically placed on the corners of cross streets, from Exeter Street to Massachusetts Avenue.
"The beauty is in the simplicity," said Tim McCarthy, principal of the commissioner for the Boston Public Works department. "They're nothing more than a compactor you'd have in your own kitchen."
Kind of. About the size of a mailbox, the compactors use solar panels to stay charged. Every 30 seconds an infrared light shoots out of the top of the barrel to detect trash, and presses it down if there is any. When they get to be about 70 percent full, a wi-fi signal goes out to Public Works, alerting the department to come empty the barrel.
The city also replaced all the regular trash cans on Newbury Street with larger, more ornate barrels. But compactors hold more than normal trash cans, which fill up quickly. McCarthy sends workers over to Newbury Street about two to three times a day to empty them. With stop-and-go traffic, "It's pretty much an all day thing," he said.
The compactors will allow the department to keep track of when they're full, and spend time on other projects, he said. And because they're larger and crush the air out of items like coffee cups and paper bags, it's cutting down on waste.
"We're hoping to not only save ourselves money, but it's a huge environmental piece," McCarthy said.
They're also locked up, so people and animals can't get in, and the trash can't get out, which business owners like.
"For one, it confines the trash and prevents it from blowing all over the street," said Michele Messino, treasurer of the Newbury Street League.
The organization bought six of the compactors, for about $4,000 each, and they were installed in October. Messino is also talking with local business owners about sponsoring more, with BerryLine being the first.
So far she's received a good response.
"They love them," Messino said. "I've gotten requests from five or six people. We'd love to have the whole street done."
Actually, the plan is to do all of Boston, McCarthy said.
The city paid $150,000, and is finalizing a $300,000 grant through the state Department of Energy Resources to purchase about 80 of the compactors. Within the last three years they city has placed nearly 200 prototypes in test locations like Faneuil Hall and Fenway.
The Big Bellies are staples in larger cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago. Word has it they result in a 70 percent savings, McCarthy said, but the Newbury Street compactors will be used as part of a Babson College study to determine the impact here in Boston.
"They're starting to spread out," McCarthy said. "There's no doubt about it."