Downtown Conway tries solar trash and recycling bins

By Tammy Keith Originally Published August 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 28, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Cindy Hudson, a gemologist at Fletcher Smith’s Jewelers in Conway, utilizes the new BigBelly Solar trash receptacle on Oak Street in the city’s downtown district.

CONWAY — It might be handy to have a smart trash can that would send an alert when it needed emptying and use the sun’s energy to compact the waste.

Downtown Conway is testing BigBelly Solar trash and recycling receptacles with that technology.

“I saw them at a convention last year,” said Cheryl Harrington, director of the Conway Sanitation Department.

“They’re quite costly, so we had to see what we could do best. This year, we decided to go ahead with it,” Harrington said.

The set, which costs $6,200, is being tried on Oak Street in downtown Conway.

One side is for recyclable items; the other is for trash.

About the size of the mail drop box at the post office, the bins hold the equivalent of about 90 trash bags, Harrington said.

“It’s unreal what it holds,” she said.

“We’re testing it for downtown because the receptacles we have are small, and they don’t really have a way to allow for the trash not to have an odor,” she said.

“It lets our office know when they need to be emptied,” she said. “It sends a signal, ‘Hey, we’re full, come get us.’ It cuts down on time; it cuts down on manpower,” she said.

The sanitation department paid for the pair but is working with the Conway Downtown Partnership on the project.

“I think it’s just a great thing,” said Kim Williams, executive director of the Conway Downtown

Partnership. “When Cheryl came up with it, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s so great.’”

Williams said the new cans look better than the smaller, open green metal ones placed throughout downtown.

“I’m really trying to encourage [business owners] to use this and move away from the unsightly cans on the street,” Williams said.

“They’re prettier, and they’re green,” she said, referring to the containers’ environmental impact.

“We use it every day,” said Cindy Hudson, gemolo-

gist at Fletcher Smith’s Jewelers. “We usually stay in the store to eat, and almost everything is served in Styrofoam boxes. … It is very handy.”

Businesses also have dumpsters behind their buildings, and Williams said the long-range goal is to eliminate those.

“It would hopefully save them some money,” she said.

Even a store that disposes of large cardboard boxes would be able to use the new container, Williams said.

“They’re going to have to break it down themselves so it will fit in there,” Williams said, but it could be done.

She said the trash and recycling receptacles could save the city money, too.

“Right now, for [sanitation employees] to come pick up all those little green cans and dumpsters downtown is a nightmare — it takes a lot of coordinating to get it done,” she said.

The sanitation department also comes downtown whether the trash cans and dumpsters need to be emptied or not, she said.

Harrington said if the BigBelly containers work as well as city officials expect, more will be purchased.

“We’ll stagger them throughout downtown to where they’re accessible depending on the area you’re shopping in,” she said, where they are accessible to sunlight.

The long-term goal would be to put the containers in high-traffic areas such as ballparks, too.

“After we get the downtown taken care of — that’s my first objective — it’s something we would look into,” she said.

Harrington said the only other place in the state she could find that has the BigBelly system is Arkansas State University-Jonesboro.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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