When technology has the potential to reduce labor and costs, all while helping the environment, local governments jump to get involved.

The next green wave of the future: Solar Powered Trash Compactors.

The latest venture by Waste Management assists municipalities and facilities in reducing waste collection frequency, lowering customer costs and providing a greener, cleaner environment.

At roughly the same size as a standard 35-gallon trash can, technologically advanced compactors contain solar panels powering a compaction unit that provides up to five times the capacity of a traditional trashcan.

A sensor triggers inside the compactor allowing the unit to compact the waste into easy-to-collect bags. A text message is sent to the service provider when the unit is ready to be emptied.

The new compactors reduce trash collection by 80 percent, which lowers costs associated with pickup, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions. The compactor is made from recycled materials and can also be used in areas not receiving direct sunlight.

Philadelphia, Seattle and Boston already have the technology, while California cities and counties are getting on board.

Lodi Communications Director Jeff Hood claimed the compactors would save the city in excess of $50,000 annually in labor, gasoline and extra cleanup costs.

Lodi will use federal stimulus dollars to purchase 20 cans to be spread throughout city parks and high traffic areas.

“Although there is money in the budget, this money can now go to any other project in the Parks and Recreation Department,” Hood said.

The city of Philadelphia is using its own resources to purchase additional cans because they believe they are such an effective way to keep the city clean.

“We know busy intersections, public parks, city streets, sporting events and other public spaces can be magnets for trash,” said Dave Aardsma, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Waste Management.

The city of Santa Cruz also has the solar powered compactors; placing two in front of two movie theatres on heavily traveled Pacific Avenue, stated Mark Dettle, Director of Public Works for the city.

Previously, the city emptied the cans every few hours, now they are emptied once a day.

Dettle said a major difference was that the area remained clean all day.

“The overall feeling is very positive. They provide a better service and the city is very satisfied,” Dettle said.

Waste Management, which teamed with BigBelly Solar on the compactors, also includes receptacles for collecting plastic bottles, newspapers, glass and other recyclables.

Louis Dettorre can be reached at ldettorre@publicceo.com