Public Space Waste: From Eyesore To Amenity

From Eyesore to Amenity

A few days ago, a customer turned a phrase that embodies what Bigbelly does with surgical precision and profound understanding.

I was relating to her a personal experience. To celebrate a family milestone, we and our close friends visited a local restaurant with streetside dining. At the restaurant, we selected the perfect outdoor table to enjoy the warming spring weather. Halfway through the meal, one of our friends pointed towards the street and joyfully asked: isn’t that one of your Bigbellys? In fact, we were sitting less than ten feet from a Bigbelly waste and recycling station. And people were using it.

Two things dawned on me at that moment. First, I would never in a million years have selected a table so close to a traditional trash receptacle. The very idea is revolting. We were 100% unaware that there was a trash receptacle anywhere near us. Second, the reason we were unaware stemmed from the form and function of the Bigbelly itself. It doesn’t look like a trash can: our eyes saw something…maybe a mailbox?…but not a trash can. And its design effectively made the trash invisible. Even when the Bigbelly was being used, we perceived something more like a mail deposit than waste disposal.

Bigbelly enhanced our experience by giving people a place to put trash in a way that you would not see or smell it, notice the presence of a trash can, or observe the collection of trash. There was not any litter or overflow. Containment means containment. Never mind that it’s automated, GPS- and wifi-enabled, and solar-powered: a high tech marvel. It just didn’t seem to be there. Space planners take note: now it’s possible to design satisfying high tech waste management into an architecture without exposing visitors to the sight or odors of trash.

And that’s a big part of what Bigbelly embodies. Even though it has a hard job to do, it goes to great lengths to complement the atmosphere of a place, blending in, whether celebration, tranquility, or business is the purpose. It’s a pragmatic AND aesthetic way to manage trash and enhance the enjoyment of public spaces, whether in a medical center waiting area, a busy city park, the cafeteria of a corporate campus, the sidewalks of Main Street in town, or the food court of a mall. So I thank the customer who responded to my account of this when she wrote the words: yes, Bigbelly turned an eyesore into an amenity.

I wish I had thought of them.

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