MTSU SGA senator brings solar trash compactors to campus

MTSU Solar Trash Compactor
MTSU's new solar-powered trash compactor in front of the Keathley University Center. (MTSU Sidelines / Austin Lewis)

Photo by Austin Lewis // Staff Photographer

Brandon Lewis, MTSU senior and member of Students for Environmental Action, has implemented and successfully created a plan for installing two solar-powered trash compactors on campus. Lewis became involved in Students for Environmental Action during the fall of 2013.

“I have always been environmentally conscious, so I ran into them at the student organization fair,” he said.

Lewis got the idea when he did research on green technologies of other universities in other cities. He also got the idea for the bins when he discovered that the city of Philadelphia successfully rid itself of traditional trash.

“I felt that these compactors are far more aesthetic and more efficient than your traditional trash can be,” Lewis said.

To use the compactors, students open up the sliding door on the bin and put anything they want inside. Once the compactor reaches a specific capacity, the trash is compacted.

“This is completely by solar power,” Lewis said. “This does not take any energy out of our grid. It only takes energy from the sun.”

The solar-powered compactors allow the bins to hold five to six times more trash than a usual trash can. Lewis also said the compactor makes pick-up time more efficient and shows the actual volume of trash that goes into the landfill.

Lewis initially pushed the idea to the Students for Environmental Action group. The group works close with the SGA’s Sustainable Campus Fund, which funds green activities such as the compactors, water refilling stations and solar panels on campus.

The idea for funding, cost and analysis for the compactors was put into motion last fall, and the bins were ordered in January 2015.  Due to delays caused by construction and weather, the bins were not installed until July. One of the bins is positioned on the west side of the Student Union Building, and the other is placed on the south side of the Keathley University Center.

Both bins combined cost $6,100, with an additional $200 software installation fee, which came out of the Sustainable Campus Fund.

“If the solar-powered compactors were not funded, the same funds would have went to something else green,” he said. “It’s not taking away from student organizations or improvements on campus or anything like that.”

Students for Environmental Action is MTSU’s environmental activist group who participates in many campus-related events such as every home football game and tailgate, where numerous club members recycle items left behind. For the past two years, club members have passed out personal recycling bins to several dorms on campus so students can recycle in their rooms instead of taking their recyclables all the way to the recycling facility on the far north side of campus. The group is also involved in several campaigns and trips to conferences and organizations to voice MTSU’s environmental awareness.

Lewis’s future plan for making the campus green includes installation of more water refilling stations. One refilling station has already been placed next to the computer lab in the Business and Aerospace building. The second refilling station will be installed next to Blue Raider Grill, and the third is to be installed on the third floor of the College of Education building.

“The organization does the best that we can to make the campus greener,” Lewis said. “The greatest sign of appreciation of people who are environmentally conscious is to come out and share their love for the environment.”

Lewis also plans to submit more proposals to have water refilling stations installed in buildings where they are compatible for students by the time he graduates.

“Do not be fearful of trying to make change,” he added.

This story appeared in the Nov. 30, 2015 print edition of Sidelines. Copies are currently available for free on stands throughout MTSU’s campus.

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To contact News Editor Amanda Freuler, email

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