Rethinking NYC’s Trash Challenge

Trash bin developed by a team of RISD alums for NY City

Officials working to keep New York City sidewalks litter-free—while also encouraging recycling and composting—are testing out two alternative new designs for trash bins this summer. As one of two finalists in the BetterBin.NYC competition, Group Project—a design team made up almost entirely of RISD alumni—is eager for public feedback to their proposed bin design.

Group Project's ergonomic design of trash beens encourages recycling
Group Project’s ergonomic design encourages recycling.

The interdisciplinary design team includes former RISD classmates Colin P. Kelly 07 ID, Brit Kleinman 07 ID and Brandon Massey BArch 08, along with British-born designer Chris Glaister. Group Project says they’re “thrilled” to partner with the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), the design nonprofit Van Alen Institute, the Industrial Designers Society of America and the American Institute of Architect—New York (AIANY) to develop a new trash bin design that will “better serve sanitation workers, modernize the streetscape and change the public’s perceptions and behaviors towards waste—with the goal of achieving zero waste by 2030.”

Prototype trash bins being tested in New York City
New Yorkers and visitors are invited to weigh in on the prototypes being tested in selected neighborhoods this summer.

The design for the city’s 23,000 green wire trash bins currently in use dates back to the 1930s—long before issues like recycling and ergonomic health for sanitation workers drove policy decisions.

By contrast, AIANY Executive Director Benjamin Prosky says: “We expect the winning design to contribute to the beauty of our city streets and to improve functionality by bringing greater ease to the maintenance work of those we rely on to keep our cities clean.”

“We are... developing a litter basket that will better serve sanitation workers, modernize the streetscape and change the public’s perceptions.”

Competition finalists Group Project

Prototypes by Group Project and the other finalist, Smart Design—selected from more than 200 submissions—are currently being tested along 9th Avenue in Manhattan, on Main Street in Queens and on Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx. Residents and visitors are encouraged to weigh in by visiting the BetterBin website or via social media using the hashtag #BetterBinNYC.

Once the judges make a final decision after this summer’s trial run, the next step for DSNY will be to bid out the production of 20,000+ cost-effective new trash bins tailored to help the city meet its ambitious zero waste goals by 2030.

Simone Solondz

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