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City Beaches Take Out the Trash

By Shannon in News on May 26, 2007 3:00PM

All right, people. It's the moment you've been waiting for: as of Friday, the beaches are now open. Glee! Last one to dive headfirst into Lake Michigan is a piece of raw sewage ... much like Lake Michigan itself. Ah, but we poke fun at that body of water of ours. To be honest, the city is putting a pilot program into effect this bathing season in order to help out with that pesky E. coli problem, as well as save some energy and hopefully some bucks in the long run.

pick up!The Chicago Park District is putting 25 state-of-the-art trash compactors into effect on four local beaches. Known as "BigBelly" machines, the devices resemble library drop-off bins, but have "Litter" printed across them in big, bold letters, so don't toss your James Michener books in there just yet. (We're kidding, throw those fuckers in.) An optical beam resides in the collection part at a certain height; when the beam's broken, all the trash within gets the Kompressor treatment. The bins also have lights on the outside, letting people know when they're full, when they're crushing, and when they're willing to accept your waste. Ain't technology grand? Another good thing is that they're solar-powered, charging even on cloudy days. So, renewable energy used for power, less frequent emptying of trash cans, less gas used to transport trash away. Estimates place the investment return of $97,000 at 18 months or less.

Here's where the E. coli bit comes in. These compactors are being installed at North Avenue, 31st Street and 63rd Street, three busy beaches that had many closures last year due to the nasty little bacteria. (The fourth is at Queen's Landing off of Buckingham Fountain.) With less trash on the beach and more in the BigBelly, seagulls won't come looking for a snack, leaving their droppings in the water while they forage. For those worried about unattended machines sucking them in by accident, some test bins installed downtown a month ago have yielded no incidents. Of course, to paraphrase S&S's spokesman Matt Smith, we're Chicagoans, so who knows what we're capable of. Who cares? Just get those green flags up!

Image via Seahorse Power.