Solar Trash Can Million Dollar Idea
Back in 1999, during a walk along Boston's bustling Charles Street, Jim Poss decided he wanted to help his city resolve a messy problem he had encountered on almost every street corner: overflowing trash cans. At the time, Poss was working for electric-car company Selectria, so he was comfortable with solar technology and motors. He worked out a makeshift design for a garbage can fitted with a solar-powered trash compactor that he thought could reduce the amount of trash spilling onto streets.
His brainstorm eventually led to the creation of his 15-employee, Needham (Mass.)-based Seahorse Power, which sold its first solar-powered receptacle in 2005. Now, there are about 500 units, named BigBelly, installed around world. The selling point: Each BigBelly holds between four and five times the amount of a conventional trash can, thereby reducing the amount of trips a municipal government needs to make to collect it. By adopting his technology, Poss says that municipalities save time and money and reduce fuel consumption and wear and tear on city streets.
Of course, breaking into such an entrenched industry has its share of challenges. Adoption of BigBelly units has been slow, but is increasing exponentially. In 2005, Seahorse had about $275,000 in sales. In its second year, it reached $1 million.
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