January 10, 2020

New York City’s iconic trash can gets a redesign

Here are three stories about the power of making old ideas new again to inspire you as you head into the weekend.

An enduring artifact of New York City, the mesh green steel trash can, is getting a major update for the first time since the 1930s. The new version will be 20 pounds lighter, making it safer for sanitation workers to lift and empty.

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. This week, how people and organizations are rethinking the status quo—from trash cans to entire industries—to help people live better lives. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Lightening the load: The design of New York City’s iconic wire trash can has remained relatively unchanged since the 1930s. But a new competition challenges designers and engineers to reimagine the industrial strength bins. (Each weighs 30 pounds empty, but when filled up, they can weigh up to 100 pounds!) That’s what the firm Group Project is hoping to change. The design firm recently won the BetterBin, a competition from the New York City Department of Sanitation, the Van Alen Institute, the Industrial Designers Society of America, and the American Institute of Architects to redesign the city’s trash cans. Group Project unveiled a new litter bin that’s durable enough to withstand New York City street life but also lighter than the current trash cans. These new and improved cans feature a removable section that weighs only 10 pounds, making it easier for sanitation workers to handle. Group Project also included a cross bar at the top of the bins to act as a barrier to stop people from overflowing them with mountains trash. The next step will be for the city and residents to put them to the test this year, reports CityLab.

Growing Diversity: A nonprofit is trying to create a new generation of diverse farmers in New York City who are cultivating a cultural mix of food within communities. Founded in 1970, GrowNYC has launched numerous programs, including the New Farmer Development Project, which helps Spanish-speaking farmers start their own agricultural business.

The 2017 USDA Census on Agriculture found that out of 2.7 million farmers, only 0.7 percent identified as Asian and 1.4 percent identified as black. GrowNYC wants to change these statistics, starting in New York, where 97 percent of farms belong to white men. This lack of diversity affects who has access to fresh produce. A lack of fresh produce can create a sense of disconnect between people and their food. GrowNYC established a program that identifies, educates, and supports aspiring farmers with agricultural experience that will give them the skills and resources to establish their own farm businesses. In 2019, 40 immigrants who speak 12 different languages applied to this program. “We’re not only talking about farming. We are creating the new generation. A new generation that speaks about diversity, equity, community,” Gabriela Pereyra, the Beginning Farmer Program manager at GrowNYC, told NationSwell.

Creating a village: A new shelter in Seattle is giving Native people struggling with homelessness a safe place to live. Eagle Village is one of the first facilities of its kind in the country to exclusively serve Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders in the city experiencing homelessness. The shelter features modular trailers that are divided into small apartments; each comfortably fits two people. Residents have community meetings, drum circles, a medicine garden, and resources to cook their own meals. Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club which runs Eagle Village, told NPR that she intentionally chose the word “village” instead of shelter or camp. She hopes that this “culturally responsible housing” can be an example to other cities and shelters.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.