Gobbling Up Trash in Echo Park

For years, the northeast corner of Sunset and Echo Park Boulevards was synonymous with trash and litter. If you walked past at just about any time of the day or night, you would see Styrofoam cups, bottles and cans as well as trash-packed plastic bags overflowing from the corner’s wire mesh trash can and spilling onto Sunset Blvd. and into the corner catch basin. The trash created blight, public health concerns and during a rain event, these pollutants would flow straight into Echo Park Lake or clog the catch basin grate and flood the intersection.

Enter Solar Big Belly in September 2011. For more than a year now, these two units – one for trash and one for recyclables – have sat quietly on this corner, their brightly colored Lotus flower-themed artwork adding beauty to their urban setting. More importantly, however, their presence has successfully removed the trash and litter – as well as the flies and vermin – that once plagued this corner.

Since its installation, Solar Big Belly has gobbled up more than 4,400 gallons of trash and recyclables at this location, doing its part to keep pollutants out of Echo Park Lake and the Los Angeles River. “Solar Big Belly is an extraordinary contribution to the community,” states Isa-Kae Meksin, a 50-year resident of Echo Park. “I walk in the area almost every day and the impact it’s made is clear – the northeast side of Sunset is clean!” continued Meksin.

Solar Big Belly is unique because its compactor allows it to hold four times more trash and recyclables than the average mesh trash can, making it a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly trash disposal option. Its solar-powered sensor sends a message to its manufacturer when it’s full, signaling the need for its bins to be emptied. This is typically done weekly.  

Echo Park’s Solar Big Belly is the result of a collaborative community effort to eliminate trash and litter.  Ida Talalla, Founder-Coordinator of Echo Park Trash Abatement Project (or TAP), working with a committee of local business owners and residents, secured the units through competitive matching grants from the City of Los Angeles’ Office of Community Beautification and Keep Los Angeles Beautiful. Pro bono assistance from Shelter Clean and area clean-ups from Central City Action Committee, LA Conservation Corps, Metro Clean and Echo Park residents removed another 3,000 lbs. of trash and recyclables from the Echo Park community and enabled Echo Park TAP to fulfill its matching requirement.

And, look for this successful collaboration to continue. A sister set of Solar Big Belly units are to be installed at a second location further east on Sunset Blvd. in the near future – a chance for these technologically advanced units to gobble up even more trash in Echo Park.

Photos courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Ida Talalla.


Comments (4)

  1. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    Cheryl Revkin
    September 30th, 2012 at 6:34 am

    I’ve been an echo park resident for 40 years and always felt embarrassed by the clutter and smell @Echo Park and Sunset. Thanks to the unwavering commitment of Ida Tallala, we can take pride in our landmark corner. Ida has been the driving force behind cleanliness and pride in our community. Thank you, Ida!

    • Avatar for LA Stormwater
      LA Stormwater
      October 2nd, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks, Cheryl, for your words of encouragement. We are pleased with how Solar Big Belly has helped keep Echo Park cleaner!

  2. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    December 18th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Unfortunately, garbage and litter has been getting worse lately in Echo Park along Echo Park Ave and Sunset Blvd. There are not enough garbage/recycling bins and cleanup services are not happening frequently enough. Can more garbage/recycling bins be installed and can cleanup services be scheduled more frequently?

    • Avatar for LA Stormwater
      LA Stormwater
      December 20th, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Thanks for your comment, Tony, and your desire to keep Echo Park clean. We believe Echo Park TAP is looking into having more Solar Big Bellys installed along Sunset Blvd. If you’re interested in having more City trash cans installed, we recommend talking to the folks in LA Sanitation’s Solids Resources Division. You can call (800) 773-2489 or here’s a link to Sanitation’s service request form: http://www.lacitysan.org/solid_resources/refuse/service_request.htm

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