BigBelly Strikes Big Agreement with Waste Management

6/12/09Follow @wroush

If you’re a company that makes high-tech public waste bins and you’re looking for a partner to get them distributed nationally, there aren’t many bigger than Waste Management (NYSE: WMI), the Houston, TX-based waste hauler and environmental services company with more than 20 million commercial, residential, municipal, and industrial customers in North America.

That’s why today is a big day for BigBelly Solar, the Needham, MA, startup that manufactures the solar-powered, trash-compacting bins seen in dozens of street corners around Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities. At the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Providence, RI, Waste Management announced today that it has struck a deal with BigBelly to become the exclusive distributor of the company’s technology in North America.

That means solar-powered trash bins bearing the Waste Management logo—but manufactured by BigBelly—could start showing up soon in dozens of cities across the U.S and Canada.

Leveraging Waste Management’s existing relationships with municipal governments and its large sales team will help BigBelly spread its technology far faster than the six-year-old startup could have managed on its own, says Richard Kennelly, a vice president at the company.

“Our partnership with the number one waste and environmental services provider in North America is of enormous significance for us,” Kennelly says. “Waste Management is everywhere. By offering WM solar-powered compactors to its customers, Waste Management will greatly expand our distribution, enhance our credibility and provide financial resources going forward.”

Waste Management was attracted to BigBelly’s bins because of their potential to lower the costs of municipal waste collection, according to Wes Muir, the company’s director of corporate communications.Not only can the BigBelly units ingest more trash before they’re full—the built-in, solar-powered compactors mean they can hold up to five times more waste than ordinary public trash bins—but the devices send out a wireless signal when they’re full, allowing sanitation officials to dispatch garbage trucks only when the bins actually need to be emptied. Together, those two factors can eliminate four out of five waste collection trips, according to BigBelly.

“Our municipal customers are very concerned about the cost of waste collection in public spaces,” Muir tells Xconomy. “You’ve got to go and clean these barrels, and you’re constantly sending men and women into the street to check the cans and empty them whether they need it or not. It’s a very uneconomical way of looking after that waste. So our customers were saying, ‘Can you come up with something?’ We came across BigBelly Solar, and examined it and a number of other technologies, and we felt this was the right partner and the right technology.”

The two companies aren’t revealing the financial terms of their deal. But it could be lucrative for both parties, as it gives Waste Management an attractive new service to offer to cities or large commercial facilities that already hire the company to pick up residential curbside waste or to empty dumpsters. Waste Management hasn’t traditionally collected waste from public trash bins—but in places where City Hall wants to install the BigBelly machines, residents may soon see Waste Management’s distinctive green trucks rather than public-works trucks emptying sidewalk waste containers.

“We’d certainly like to” put BigBelly units in every city where Waste Management has existing contracts, Muir says. “We’re starting with our existing customers, and trying to go where the need is. We are in the process of letting customers know about this new service offering—that’s why we issued the release at the U.S. Conference of Mayors—and we are in discussions with a number of cities right now.”

It should be an easy sell, given BigBelly statistics showing that the bins, which cost $3,000 to $4,000 each, pay for themselves within a company of years through lower fuel and personnel costs. “There are been some examples where municipalities are estimating their costs savings to be quite large,” says Muir.

BigBelly raised $3.2 million in new financing from undisclosed investors just last month, and has raised at least $4.3 million all told.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • Jack

    Great article,
    Check out their updated video here:
    it’s very informative
    http://www.youtube.com/BigBellySolar

  • http://www.enwis-us.com enwis

    That is impressive technology. I bet that it really is a money saver for waste management industries.