Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What do parachuting easter bunnies and solar-powered trash bins have in common?

The answer: Philadelphia. What a fun city. I was there over the weekend and saw many interesting things in and around it, including:

And, if you are still with me, perhaps most relevant to Pop Up Lunch, these "Big Belly" solar-powered, compacting trash cans. Looks like they were installed last year throughout Philadelphia, amongst other cities, to great success.

The benefits? Big Belly says it better than I could: "The unit takes up as much space as the "footprint" of an ordinary receptacle—but its capacity is five times greater. Increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. BigBelly also provides cost efficiencies from labor savings, fuel cost and maintenance savings, as well as environmental benefits from reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants."

So that's all great - Love it and am wondering why we aren't seeing these popping up around NYC. HMMM....

I was also thinking that there may be room to build on the Big Belly concept. Instead of trying to blend the bins into urban environments with a "sleek design" (again, Big Belly's words, not mine), what if they were designed to stand out? What if you could see from the outside what was happening to the trash inside the belly? That would be totally cool, A, and B, it would be an educational experience, leading to heightened awareness about consumption. C, it would be useful for the trash collectors, as they could take a quick visual read of when a bin needs to be emptied. And D, the garbage bin would shift from industrial structure to living sculpture. Here is a quick sketch to illustrate what I am talking about:

As it is now, you drop your trash and then it is out of sight, out of mind. But if the bins had a soft/flexible but structured middle, you would be able to see the shape of the trash, and the different stages of compaction (with trash getting flatter and more compact from the bottom up). If you could literally see trash being "digested", you would make the link to your own consumption cycle and think about what happens next.

I don't think it is so different from Volkswagon's Fun Theory (they have a garbage bin idea too). It is about rewarding positive behaviors with engaging experiences. Here is a video of their Piano Step project in a Stockholm subway:

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