What is it you are throwing away? Designing Litterbins in Sweden.


One of our favorite topics on TreeHugger is waste management, the three Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle are repeated like a mantra. We haven’t, however, talked so much about the design of the receptacles that we throw our rubbish into, although here's a post and here's another, oh and another. At home it is relatively easy to control your waste disposal and recyling or even composting efforts, but the public litterbin in most cities is usually an object to lock your bike to or vandalise. Although when they are not overflowing some people do actually dispose of rubbish in them. For some however just throwing something in the vague direction of the trash can is good enough. After reading an article in a local newspaper, which criticised the town of Göteborg in Sweden for it’s dysfunctional litterbins and public waste management in general, three design students decided to focus their talents on redesigning the public litterbin. They began by investigating Göteborg’s city identity, vandalism issues, attitudes of the public’s awareness of what a litterbin is and how easy it was for them to locate it in the city landscape. The resulting project is called What is it you are throwing away? Var är det du slänger? in Swedish. Kristoffer Lundholm, Sy Willmer and Daniel Hassila have exhibited their prototype litterbin designs in Göteborg and are now looking to expand the project into practical applications. Their idea is to choose a specific public area in which they can create a showcase for ecological waste management using their litterbin designs. They are also proposing workshops and education days to encourage interaction with the local community and especially schools.

The concept of the whole project is very interesting and it will be great to see how their designs work in practice. It would be good to know about their design process in more detail, for example what materials they investigated? Was material choice considered from a sustainable angle? What worked, what didn’t? Did they consider divided sections for recycling? How did they improve the ergonomics of the litterbin and the public’s interaction with it? Hopefully we will have a follow up post soon with some answers to these questions. In the meantime read on for more about the Göteborg litterbin project and about how to get involved.

Kristoffer Lundholm, Sy Willmer and Daniel Hassila, are currently studying on the masters degree program in design at HDK School of design at Göteborgs University, Sweden. They are working in collaboration with the city's Culture board, Parks department and planning office.

The work addresses the public's attitudes and awareness of what a litterbin is, how it functions, and its importance for the city landscape. The work focused on city identity, vandalism issues and with the usability of rubbish receptacles from the city cleaning services point of view e.g. emptying safely with out risk of repetitive stress or muscular injuries. Emphasis was put on the disposal of cigarette ends, being one of the most toxic items of city litter and now since the introduction of a no smoking policy in Swedish bars and offices many people stand on the street outside to smoke, thus increasing the amount discarded cigarette ends on the pavement.

The trio has exhibited the project twice and GT has now published an article 12/05/06, following up on the 1st with the work they have done and the team is now looking for ways to continue the work with street furniture for the city of Göteborg that will hopefully form part of a more ecological waste management system, to be experimented with at a chosen location in the city.

The group would be happy to hear from any organisations or manufactures that would be interested in getting involved in the realisation of this work and be contacted at info (at) syco.uk.com