Venice gives solar powered trash cans a try

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VENICE, Fla. - The sun is now helping the city of Venice deal with trash. Within the past week, solar powered trash cans have been popping up around town. The energy produced by the sun helps to compact the trash where it sits. But it comes with a cost.

It just might be the most expensive trash can you have ever seen, costing more than $4,000.

They're showing up around downtown Venice, and city leaders say it's a trial to see if the cost of the can will actually outweigh the cost of having to pay someone to empty regular ones more often.

So, what does it do? Even after using them, many residents still don't know.

“It provides energy to compact the trash inside." Public Works director John Veneziano says the new bins mean less driving to and from to empty, saving staff and travel costs. The new fancy units can actually hold five times the amount a regular trash bin can. "If we went with these cans on a widespread basis, you could potentially cut down on that work effort by up to 80%."

The cans are also capable of using a Wi-Fi signal to notify workers when the can is full and needs to be emptied.

As you might imagine, some are skeptical. "It's just something else that can break. Go into disrepair and have to be replaced," says one resident.

The city currently has 150 of the old wood and galvanized steel models. For now they're renting just three of the solar units for $169 per can, per month. "This is a trial basis. We are going to look at the total economics of it," says Veneziano.

Fans of the cans include many of the shop owners. Randy Etzkorn at the Venice Avenue Creamery says it's a wanted upgrade from the old. “After a busy weekend in particular, it would be heaping full and falling off the sides. This is much neater."

That would come into play during many of the parades, festivals, and other downtown activities for which the city currently has to hire extra staff. "If we had these types of cans, we might be able to get through the whole event and just have to empty them on Monday or something," says Veneziano.

Proponents say it also cuts down on the smell and animals looting them. The cans could even make money with advertising on the side. They say with a little help from the sun it's turning trash into treasure.

The city says they want to give the cans a year, and see how they hold up, and decide whether more cans are the answer. They also say not every can would need the recycling option, which would cut that cost down some.