Orange, Texas-When it comes to trash collecting and recycling, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center now has a much sunnier disposition.

In a recent teaming up with Waste Management, the center now has a new trash compacting system.

While it looks similar to a regular trash can, the system actually is able to compact trash down so that it can store more waste without having to be emptied as frequently.

“They only have to be emptied once every five days or so,” Michael Hoke, Shangri La managing director, said. “Once trash reaches a certain level, it begins compacting it.”

One side is for trash and the other is for recyclable materials, which can be placed in without having to be separated.

“And, it is all run on solar power,” Hoke said.

The system is made possible through an innovation by Big Belly Solar, Mike Wilson, Beaumont district manager of Waste Management, said.

“We recently partnered with Big Belly Solar for small units like these to be placed in places like schools and college campuses. The compacting of the trash and recyclables makes it easier to dispose of with less emptying and without having to use electricity to compact it down.”

According to the company Web site, the Big Belly Solar intelligent waste collection system combines solar-powered trash compaction, efficient recycling solutions, and network management software and services into a powerful approach that enables municipalities, universities and other institutional customers to reduce the operating costs associated with collection by up to 80 percent.

Hoke said that Waste Management chose to try out the system at Shangri La, as they are one of the top ten green projects in the world and already are a big promoter of recycling.

“In the fall and spring, we get groups of school kids coming through here and we may have to empty trash from cans two to three times a day,” Hoke said. “Now it will only be a couple of times per week.”

Wilson said that while some bigger cities are moving to these type of systems, the Orange and Beaumont areas do not have as much tourism traffic so may not see the need for it. But, it is a possibility for transition in the future.

“There is more than just the smaller cans,” Wilson said. “There is also larger grocery store compactors. And, while they are too large to go 100 percent off of solar power, they cut the electric use by about 40 to 45 percent.”

Hoke said that the compacted material that they are not yet able to compost will be much easier to get rid of. Waste Management has even installed a large recycling bin for the center on the premises that they can come pick up without the center having to transport to Beaumont.

“We hope to one day be able to use all the recyclable materials right here,” Hoke said. “We can’t yet, but we are working toward that goal.”