More Big Bellies hit city streets

They're big. They're brainy. They're solar-powered. And they're hungry for your trash.

This morning, 20 more BigBelly solar-powered trash collectors and compactors will be the centerpieces of a ribbon-cutting hosted by Philadelphia streets commissioner Clarena I.W. Tolson and others. They'll be at the Ogontz Avenue business corridor in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia, in front of the Weaver's Way Co-Op at 72nd and Ogontz.

Philly is going big into the Bellies. So far, 474 have been installed in Center City.  Today begins the installation of another 465 -- including 184 with twin recycling bins -- in other neighborhoods and business corridors. As for the funding, 245 are being paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and 220 by the Commerce Department's Restore Bond Fund for commercial corridor projects.

Because of the compacting ability, the devices have to be emptied less often, so they are intended to save on staff time and fuel costs, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. They also were seen as an alternative to the open wire trash baskets that attracted rodents, filled with rainwater, and often had their contents blown out by gusty winds.

But there's also been some trash talk about the bellies.  Earlier this month, city controller Alan Butkovitz released a report saying that the city paid more than it had to for the trash compactors and that they weren't working as expected.  Tolson and the manufacturer begged to differ, based on a cursory review of the report. So far, the Streets Department has not released a more thorough response.