by Pete Mazzaccaro

The Streets Department’s John Moffo (right) demonstrates the Big Belly’s solar compactor to GRINCH members (from left) Amy Edelman, Linda Raucher and Noreen Spota. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

Last Thursday morning, March 3, the first “Big Belly” solar trash compactors arrived in Chestnut Hill. The pair — a recycling bin and a solar trash compactor — was placed in front of the Night Kitchen Bakery, 7725 Germantown Ave.

That placement is not random. Night Kitchen is owned by Amy Edelman, a founder of the local nonprofit group, GRICNH (Green in Chestnut Hill), which lobbied the city and local institutions to get the big belly trash cans in the neighborhood.

Edelman told the Local that the first meeting on bringing the Big Belly cans to the Avenue was held at Night Kitchen. That meeting, which included representatives from the Chestnut Hill Community Association, Chestnut Hill Business Association, the Chestnut Hill Bid and the Streets Department.

“At that meeting many were supportive,” Edelman said. “We came to the conclusion that it might be nice to have Night Kitchen be a pilot program so Hill residents can take a look at [the Big Belly and see how they work, and then in everybody generally has a positive feeling about them the city would discuss the other 15 big bellies that the city would like to give to Chestnut Hill and where they might be placed”

When the rest of the cans will be placed is an open question. Later that Thursday, the subject of the Big Belly cans came up at the meeting of the CHCA’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee. Several members of that committee remained unconvinced that the Big Belly’s would really be a benefit to the Hill.

GRINCH member Linda Rauscher said GRINCH hopes people would try out the Big Belly in front of Night Kitchen and see how great they work and get used to the way they look. If that happens, the city will be happy to place more.

“We want to make sure everyone is happy and that [the eventual distribution of the 15 Big Belly cans] is done in a way in which everyone will embrace it and everyone will be happy with the location,” Rauscher said.

Some of the objections to the cans has been on the grounds that they are not nice to look at.

“I don’t  anyone would argue that trash is  a nice thing to look at,” Edelman said. “ But trash is trash. The Big Bellies are pretty benign looking, in my opinion.”

And, Edelman said, there’s a big net benefit for the Hill and the Avenue if all 15 cans the city wants to give Chestnut Hill are placed.

“There will be less trash trucks driving around the city,” she said. “Even though the Mural Arts Program did a fabulous job of painting them, [trash trucks in general] are not very pretty and they get about 3 to 4 mpg, so they consume a tremendous amount of energy.

“Also, the main missions of GRINCH has been recycling. So the Big Belly solar compactors with the recycling bin attached are a great solution to the fact that CH does not have recycling. It introduces pedestrian recycling to Chestnut Hill.