Improperly Disposed Pizza Boxes Thwart Solar Bins

Solar powered BigBelly bins in Lorne

Image: The One and Only Lorne Community Notice Board (Facebook)

BigBelly compacting bins have proven to be a useful tool for councils, reducing the number of waste collection trips needing to be made. But not even solar power can cure stupid.

Victoria’s Surf Coast Shire Council installed BigBelly bins in Lorne back in 2016. These bins have a solar panel protected by a polycarbonate cover that charges a 12V battery powering a compaction unit situated inside the bin. Sensors in the bin detect when rubbish reaches a certain level, which sets the compaction unit into action. Through the compaction, the BigBelly is able to collect 5 times the volume of waste as a standard bin of the same capacity. The system includes monitoring that allows the operator to keep an eye on waste levels remotely and sends a message to the operator when the bin is approaching full.

Generally, the bins appear to work pretty well – assuming they are used properly.

The Surf Coast Times reports Surf Coast Shire Council has been experiencing issues in Lorne in recent weeks with people wedging items such as pizza boxes in the bin hoppers, resulting in blockages.

“In many instances the bins are showing on our monitoring system as having much more capacity available, yet rubbish is piled on top,” said acting general manager of governance and infrastructure, John Bertoldi.

Mr. Bertoldi says Council hasn’t seen this issue in the past and it doesn’t seem to be occurring in other areas.

Lorne is usually very busy this time of year, with its population effectively tripling over summer. This year appears to be particularly busy (or just messier), with higher waste volumes compared to previous years – and it would appear a lot of folks who really like pizza.

Surf Coast Shire And Solar

The BigBelly bins are just one way Council is utilising solar power and renewables generally.

It had installed close to 230 kW of solar generation capacity across 17 Council managed sites by the end of the 2019 and planned to reach more than 400kW capacity by the end of 2020 – and there may be more solar to come. It is also participating in a renewable energy buyers group consisting of dozens of Victorian councils, which will see Council sourcing 100% of  its mains electricity from renewables.

More broadly, among its goals was to work with the community to drive the uptake of renewables and achieve 25% renewable energy consumption in the shire by the end of last year. It’s not clear whether that goal was achieved, but by the end of 2019 it was estimated 13-14% of energy consumed within the shire was from renewable sources.

According to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute, around 20% of dwellings within the Surf Coast Shire had solar panels installed by the end of September last year. In the Lorne postcode area, more than 120 small-scale solar systems had been installed by the end of November 2020.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Joe Mooney says

    Michael, smart south Australians would stay away from the surf coast at holiday times due to
    Overseas drivers ( pre covid)

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