RTA goes green with solar powered trash cans

Published: Sep. 15, 2013 at 12:48 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
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New Orleans -- Buses with biodiesel fuel and solar powered trash cans. These are just a few of the ways that the Regional Transit Authority is going green.

It's the same color as a regular trash can and only a bit larger, but this contraption, is very high-tech. "They are actually not only collecting your trash in a neat and clean way, but as those cans fill up, that solar powered function actually deploys and we are compacting the trash," explained Patrice Bell Mercadel with the RTA.

Solar panels on the top of each trash can use the sun's light as energy, to push trash down tight so that 32 gallons worth of it can fit into each receptacle. The cans were just installed this week along Canal Street in a joint effort by the RTA and the city to clean up New Orleans.

Another way the RTA is going green is by building solar powered bus shelters. A lot of people probably noticed shelters like the one at the intersection of Loyola Avenue and Poydras, first going up around the time of the Super Bowl. But what many didn't realize is that there are solar panels on the roof of each shelter. Bell Mercadel says, "That solar powered panel is actually providing for fans inside the shelters on Loyola Avenue and for lighting in shelters all across the community."

Right now there are over 160 shelters across the city that use solar panels for power, with new ones going up each week. Bell Mercadel says while it costs the RTA a little more money to build the shelters, in the long run, the benefits far outweigh the initial costs.

"Otherwise we're paying the electricity to light hundreds of shelters around this city every night. As we begin to really replace all of these with solar power, that's a reduction in cost which translates into more dollars available for service," Bell Mercadel said.

But that's not the only thing the agency is doing. All buses run on biodiesel fuel and careful steps are taken to ensure harmful chemicals aren't released back into the air or ground. Bell Mercadel says it's the least the agency can do, to keep New Orleans clean, and green.

The RTA purchased the new trash cans with money received from a federal grant. The city will be responsible for maintaining most of the cans.