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Consider the Trash Receptacle

Consider the Trash Receptacle

Like it or not, urban life has us using and disposing of all sorts of items in the Public space. Newspapers -yes, they are still around!- , food containers, bottles and cans, remnants of meals and snacks, defeated umbrellas, they all find their way to the dustbins.  Those made their appearance in 1875 in England, ten years later New York City implemented its own version, just a year after Paris under the prefect Eugene Poubelle, whose last name became the common noun for “trash receptacle” in French.

Since we must have them, our trash receptacles should do a few things for us. They should be durable, they should be practical, and, to the greatest extent possible, they should look good. The items you will find at MyPlacemaking will meet this criteria. Trash receptacles can have a lot of personality, and they are a key element of a streetscape or of a park’s outdoor furniture. They convey in their aesthetic the idea of what their place of use should feel like, and what you can expect there. Indeed, few things says “mediocre park” as much as the beat up painted oil drums that reside in so many spaces in America, or the cheap and much abused wire mesh baskets that live on most of the streets of New York.

Their functionality and everyday appearance will also tell you much about the systems behind the maintenance of a given space. Are they washed down regularly to prevent flies from appearing in the warmer months? Are their lids in place? Are the units out of scale, either too big or too small? Size matters, for trash receptacles, and should be considered carefully. Typically, units living on streets will stand to be larger than those in parks.

Once you know which can you will use, step 2 is the liner. It should be as tight a fit as possible in the body of the can, so no refuse runs down the sides, in case the lid is misplaced, or missing altogether. Many times people use smallish liners in larger cans, which will quickly lead to unpleasantness for your space.

We recommend that you use a top loading trash receptacle, with a liner to be removed by hand vertically. That setup is the most natural point of entry for garbage, and has the advantage of 360 degree access for its potential users. Units with a side door for liner removal can be easier to use for staff, but their baskets are necessarily shorter, and refuse frequently falls around the core of the can which only very diligent personnel will pick up. They become the favorites of rodents and will degrade faster. Likewise units with covered tops and side loading frequently become covered with trash.

Choosing the right cans, and using them well will communicate to your patrons that someone who knows what they are doing is in charge of your space, and will contribute greatly to the sense of place you wish to create.

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