Designers Given Opportunity to Reimagine On-the-Go Waste Recycling

BetterBin Design Competition to Improve Litter Bins in New York City

The NYC Department of Sanitation, Van Alen Institute, and the Industrial Designers Society of America/American Institute of Architects New York have unveiled prototyped litter and recycling baskets produced as part of the BetterBin Competition.


The NYC Department of Sanitation, Van Alen Institute, and the Industrial Designers Society of America / American Institute of Architects New York have unveiled prototyped litter and recycling baskets produced as part of the BetterBin Competition.

The Competition offered designers an opportunity to reimagine New York City’s iconic green, wire mesh litter basket. The redesigned litter and recycling basket prototypes will be placed in select areas on New York City streets for a minimum of 30 days before final judging takes place.

“We’ve been looking forward to seeing these newly redesigned litter baskets on city streets,” said Sanitation Acting Commissioner Steven Costas. “City residents are our partners in keeping the city healthy, safe and clean, and one way they do that is by using litter baskets. We trust New Yorkers and our Sanitation Workers will put the new baskets through their paces, and look forward to seeing the results over the next couple of months.”

The litter and recycling baskets will be on trial in three locations in the city, along 9th Ave in Manhattan (between 43rd and 45th), along Main Street in Queens (between Maple Ave and Cherry Ave) and on Castle Hill Ave in the Bronx (around Newbold Ave and Ellis Ave), and will replace the green wire mesh baskets currently in those locations.

After the prototype period, which may last for up to 90 days, the judging panel will select a first-place winner based on prototype performance, public response, and feedback from the Department’s Sanitation Workers.

The winner will be eligible to contract with the City for further design development to ensure the ability to mass-produce the basket at a reasonable cost, as well as refine technical issues.

The design team finalists include Group Project and Smart Design. A third company previously announced as a finalist, IONDESIGN GmbH Berlin, was not able to produce the necessary prototypes, and is not moving forward in the Competition.

New York City currently has over 23,000 litter bins that offer pedestrians a convenient way to dispose of refuse and recycling on the go.

The most widespread design—the green, wire mesh basket—dates back to the 1930s. While iconic to the streets of New York, the basket is in need of a redesign to address the current and future waste needs of the City.

The BetterBin Competition offered designers from around the world a chance to envision a new litter basket with a sustainable, environmentally conscious, and ergonomic design that could improve the quality of life for New Yorkers and the service experience for Sanitation Workers.

“Given the rapid growth in NYC, addressing and improving the way residents and visitors handle their waste is critical to creating a clean, safe and sustainable city. Design is a powerful tool to help us rethink, and engage with our environment in new ways - we are excited by the designs that rose out from the nearly 200 submissions,” said Van Alen Institute’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Jessica Lax.

“This competition is an opportunity to be proactive in our response litter and recycling, and improve the quality of living of sanitation workers, residents and visitors. We anticipate these new bins to stay relevant in a modern city alongside other sidewalk innovations for the next 100 years,” she continued.

Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director, AIA New York Chapter, Center for Architecture, added: “From the street to the bench and even to the waste bin, AIA New York believes that innovative and excellent urban design at all scales can greatly improve the lives of people who live, work, and visit in NYC. We expect the winning design of the BetterBin Competition to contribute to the beauty of our city streets, and to improve functionality by bringing greater ease to the maintenance work of those we rely on to keep our cities clean.”

Peter Schon, Chair, IDSA NYC, said: “A city as unique as New York deserves products that have been purpose-built to serve its needs and the BetterBin Competition and its finalists have offered us just that.

“As an organisation that champions industrial design and the adherence to best practices the IDSA team has been thrilled to see DSNY approach the development of a new litter basket through research, concept development, iterative design, refinement and prototyping. And we’re extremely grateful for the tireless efforts of the finalists in refining and developing their concepts. We’ve still got a lot to learn when the prototypes hit the streets this summer but we’re certain that we’ll end up with a solution worthy of the city it serves.”

Colin Kelly of Group Project commented: “After months of refinement and collaboration with DSNY and partners, Group Project is thrilled to finally unveil our proposal for a new refuse and recycling bin for New York City.

“Our design revitalises respect for the street corner by keeping the sidewalk clean, encouraging recycling, and creating a consistent icon New Yorkers can count on. The integrated three-part design reduces overflow, provides additional capacity, and keeps the bin upright.

“Designed with Sanitation Workers in mind, our bin is half the weight while providing superior ergonomics based on existing practices. We’re excited for the testing period and look forward to seeing how the bins are received by the public.”

Dan Grossman, Associate Design Director, Smart Design concluded: “Our approach centers on our core belief that design is about people, not things. We immersed ourselves in the realities that both every day New Yorkers and Sanitation Workers face daily. By understanding how the bins were used and serviced, we were able to identify new ways to improve the design, while keeping true to the needs and aesthetics of New York.”