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Astral Bins Are Now Actual Bins

Advertising company Astral Media Outdoor bid successfully for the right to provide Toronto with new street furniture almost two years ago. Their contract calls for them to supply, among other things, new trash bins to replace the city’s existing ones (both the Eucan-provided “silver bins” and the several varieties of plastic city-owned receptacles). The Astral bins debuted last year during an exhibition at city hall. Now, they’re starting to appear on downtown streets for general use. Torontoist has spotted the bins as far north as Yonge and Davisville, as far west as Little Italy, and as far south as King and Bathurst, where two of the new cans now sit near the southeast and northwest corners of the intersection.
Torontoist spent some time around the two bins at King and Bathurst. Our goal was to discover how Astral’s curiously curvilinear newcomers are faring in their first few days on the job.

Our method was to stand in a location from which both bins were visible and record the reactions of passers-by (while trying not to creep out any of them). Incidentally, we were not the first to train our eyes on Toronto’s trash cans in this way. (The linked article is amazing. It deals with the Eucan “megabin,” a failed contender for Toronto’s next trash receptacle.)
The bin-watch lasted for an hour. Ten people discernibly turned their heads to look at the new bins while walking past. Usually this consisted of a slight craning of the neck, but there were extraordinary cases: one man, wearing a white construction helmet, twisted his entire body around so he could continue staring at the southeast bin without breaking stride as he moved by. (He didn’t want his moment of trash bin communion to end, but evidently he was in a hurry.) One middle-aged woman, wearing a brown leather cowboy hat, stopped and tugged at the sleeve of her male, likewise middle-aged and cowboy-hatted companion. They both stopped to look at the northwest bin. People without hats also seemed drawn to the bins, but less so.
The most troubling finding to come out of the watch was that word of the existence of the bins’ new-and-improved features seems not to have spread to the populace quite yet. An older woman was observed taking something from the hands of a child (presumably her own) and shoving it past the garbage flap of the southeast bin, but without first depressing the vaunted foot pedal, which lifts the bin’s flaps (one for trash and one for recycling on this particular can, though there’s another model with two recycling flaps) so hands don’t have to come in contact with any garbage residue on the exterior of a flap. Another woman was observed smoking a cigarette less than ten feet from the northwest bin while staring directly at the can’s backside, only to crush her butt out on the sidewalk with the sole of her shoe, oblivious to the convenient cigarette butt receptacle on the face of the bin. Then, forty minutes later, she came back outside and did it again. Will public re-education on the order of the sleeve-sneeze campaign be necessary? Only time and further observation will tell.
At T + 0:20, paydirt. Two men in business attire exit the nearby Second Cup, both of them with paper cups in hand. They stop, then turn to examine the northwest bin. One deposits his cup in the bin, but neglects to use the foot pedal. They walk on. Then they stop. They turn around and walk back to the bin. They prod it with their fingers and the tips of their shoes. They confer. One of them tries the pedal. They confer. The other one tries the pedal. They confer. It’s a eureka moment. It’s like watching the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey discover tools. Suddenly, it’s clear: the new bins will condition Toronto to love them. They will do it by sheer obstinacy—and by virtue of the fact that trash will simply have nowhere else to go.
Photos by Steve Kupferman/Torontoist.


  • http://null atomeyes

    i saw one of the new bins at Bloor and University on the north side.
    it was completely brimming and overflowing with garbage.
    so pretty.

  • rugby lad

    2001 reference – love it.

  • http://null Gloria

    I saw one near York and Queen. Why is it installed in the middle of walk instead of close to the curb?

  • http://null TokyoTuds

    “It’s like watching the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey discover tools.”
    That is one of the funniest fu#$%ng things I’ve read in ages ….. !

  • http://null rek

    These are installed virtually everywhere on the north side of Bloor in Koreatown. Some of them are too far from the curb, and at least one was installed at an angle, aggressively leaning into the sidewalk space.

  • http://null Raven

    At least one’s been installed in the India-Gerrard Bazaar area.
    We’ll see how fast that sucker gets filled with corncobs in the summer. :P

  • http://null JustinPD

    People throwing their buts to the ground as they stand in easy reaching distance of an ashtray is a daily street occurrence. Nothing new there. Move along.
    Short of putting giant arrows above the bin saying “PRESS HERE! IT OPENS” people will just have to figure it out for themselves. It’s in no ways a new mechanism that has shocked the world, just one has been displaced from a home environment to the least expected street one.

  • marykate

    I have the distinct honour of being privy to a bird’s eye view of one of the new additions to our city’s streets directly from my bedroom window. After having spent a fair bit of time with my co-researcher (read: pigeon who has squatter’s rights on my window sill), I’ve come to the conclusion that for the most part, people are hopelessly inept. I don’t want to make myself sound like a MENSA grade genius (but maybe I am), it’s just that when I first noticed the Astral bins, I sussed out the whole situation and was able to react accordingly. Depressing the foot pedal with my cute little YSL Tributes was easy. And the subsequent opening of the little garbage flap was logical. The subjects I’ve observed are seemingly oblivious to this cut and dry concept. Maybe it’s a culture barrier? Or that people are too preoccupied to read instructions? I don’t know but FRICK if I have to listen to the banging of some poor soul trying to wedge his coffee cup through the little hole without first releasing the mechanism ONE MORE TIME, I reckon I’m going to lose the plot. Or offer free demonstrations from 1-3 every afternoon.

  • http://null dowlingm

    Let’s have de Baeremaeker and Mihevc do another youtube to explain it. Preferably in furry suits and using bones to demonstrate.

  • http://null bunnyhero

    i saw one this weekend on eglinton west (upper village). i noticed the foot pedal right away and ran up to it to depress it. i even held it open for a stranger walking by who had garbage to throw away.

  • http://null torontothegreat

    Push pedal OR FLAPS to open

  • http://undefined rek

    If you’re over 5’5 you can’t see the instructions when you’re standing right there.

  • http://undefined mister j

    A couple have been set up in my ‘hood. They’re nice, though they seem really close to each other and they were likely put where they are without much thought.
    I think it was smart they waited until the snow was gone to roll these out since snow will likely interfere with the push-pedal.
    I tested the cigarette hole – just put the still burning butt in there and amazingly it wasn’t pouring smoke when I checked it a few minutes later.
    They look a bit bulky but I like the idea that garbage is a bit ‘in your face.’ Weirdly, I think garbage should be ‘part of our lives’ rather than easily concealed or seemingly ‘disappear’ – I think it helps people consider the waste they produce.
    Finally, when I see them I can’t help but think of AWESOM-O :)

  • http://undefined BoAd

    Most northern I’ve found is just north of Sheppard and Wilson Heights that was installed around last Tuesday.
    There’s also a new Astral bench up at the north end of Wilson Heights.
    A bit of a failure to put them on Wilson Heights since barely anyone one walks along it, however there is quite a bit of vehicle and bus traffic coming to and from the north. So I guess they’re really for display purposes only. Haven’t seen any litter in the can or anyone sit on the bench yet. Too bad about the waste. Should have put them on Sheppard or at least Wilmington.

  • Miles Storey

    I don’t mind the bins but so many of the ones I’ve seen have been installed almost in the middle of the sidewalk. Perhaps they wanted to keep them a car door’s length from the curb, or something, but on narrower sidewalks it’s really quite intrusive.

  • http://null j0hnnyb

    The new bins are all along the Danforth, from Broadview to Pape, at least.

  • aleksey

    There is one less than 100 feet from my house – at the North-West corner of Wineva and Queen (in the Beaches). I looked around to see if there are any more of them, but it seems a block in either way there are only *old* trash bins. By the way, there ARE garbage receptacles at the North-East and South-West corners of the intersection already, but it’s nice to see them finally put the bin NEXT to the bus stop (and not across the street from the bus stop). Bravo – tis a smart move!
    A photo of it is here:
    But I regret that they are made out of plastic – environmentally it’s not the best choice and esthetically metal bins (e.g. “old” design) look better.