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.