New York City’s Trash Cans Are Getting a Makeover

published Jan 25, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

The job of a trash can is simple enough: hold trash. But there are many factors to consider when designing a trash can—and the needs of a public trash can are different from those of the trash bins you use in your home or office. When they’re scaled for distribution across an entire city, trash cans have to be sturdy enough to withstand the elements yet light enough for sanitation workers to lift them up to a garbage truck. They have to hold trash in and keep critters out.

New York City has been using the same green steel baskets as public trash cans since the 1930s, and this design comes with many problems. CityLab explains:

They weigh 30 pounds when empty, which means that garbage collectors have to lift as much as 100 pounds when they empty them. (In fact, garbage collectors hold one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, with a fatal injury rate of 33 deaths per every 100,000 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.) The wide opening of the mesh bin allows trash to blow away and invites residents and business owners to dump bulky waste inside. The city’s notorious rats easily climb in and out of the baskets. And their aesthetics are not to everyone’s liking. As one reader put it to New York Magazine in 1972, “it’s really pretty ugly.

That’s why the city held the “Better Bin” design contest, a year-and-a-half-long search for a new solution for public trash. The winning design was chosen in December, and it looks like a big improvement over the old green basket.

From design studio Group Project, the new trash can combines a tough metal outer stand with a lightweight plastic insert, which is only 10 pounds, for much easier lifting. “A cross bar at the top of the basket functions as both a hinge for the lid and a barrier to stop people from dumping bulk and household trash—which often overflowed the bins,” describes CityLab.

The new trash cans are scheduled to be put to the test across the city early this year. If all goes well, they’ll go into mass production and ideally become the new face of New York City trash.