Today we like to tell you more about our voluntary work for the next generation litter basket for New York City.

The BETTERBIN is an international design competition to reimagine the iconic New York City litter basket. Run by NYC Department of Sanitation, Van Alen Institute, Industrial Designers Society of America and the American Institute of Architects-New York. Interdisciplinary design team were asked to respond to BETTERBIN and the question: How can we create a practical and efficient litter basket for New York City that reduces litter and better serves both Sanitation Workers and the public?

The goal was to make it more ergonomically for employees meeting a budget of $ 170 max per unit (20.000 units will be needed in 3 years). The design brief included several regulatory in the fields of quality of life and aesthetics, accessibility, proper use, sustainability and stewardship, servicing, security, draining, branding, cost, durability and ease of maintenance.

BETTERBIN competition set up

  1. Develop a concept for an ergonomic public trash bin. Focus is on the relief of sanitation workers. The Competition is open to the public. Submissions are welcome from the entire design community, including: architects; artists; engineers; landscape architects; planners; urban designers; industrial designers; and manufacturers, etc. Submissions from international competitors, multi-disciplinary teams, and students are welcome.
  2. Selected finalists receive $ 40.000 to produce prototypes that will be tested in a public forum for a trial period.
  3. The winning concept will be on NY street for the next decades.

To meet the submission requirements our colleagues Matthias, Patric and Jan teamed up and used a whole weekend for a detailed BETTERBIN sprint design session in Manhattan. This was an excellent chance to bond and intensify the cross-pond team spirit.

The new litter basket design combines highlights of the previous generation with new user-centric functionalities and a timeless design. Three ergonomic grip features provide an optimum comfort for the sanitation workers when dragging and lifting litter baskets from any angle. The robust structure consists of an advanced framework of lightweight steel mesh design – like the old one but better. The basket remains structurally sound, stackable and without significant cosmetic defects. Additionally, the open structure allows to determine if a basket has been emptied from a distance of 20 feet. Moreover, the openness provides low wind resistance in order to remain stable in wind gusts up 50 mph.
The optional hood covers and fixes any plastic bag as well prevents overflowing baskets. It can also be used in green, blue and black to transform the litter basket into recycling bins. A multitude of drainage holes allow fluids to drain from its interior and yet inhibit rodent access. We reserved a big area for messaging. As littering is a serious environmental and safety issue, we would love to encourage people to keep New York City clean. Addressing the residents and their respective neighborhood has also a side effect: Visitors can use the information for orientation.

We tried to be as sustainable and cost-effective as possible. Therefore, all parts may be changed separately for maintenance and current bin material may be partly reused. As the garbage weights a lot, we paid special attention to the lightweight of the better bin. 19 lbs can hold 40 gallons of trash. Several recessed grips allow ergonomic emptying.

This project shows that even trash cans, objects overlooked by many, can be special! And although the quest to redesign future NYC’s garbage cans continues without us – we are happy to be part of the competition and wish the selected three competitors luck and success.

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