Bin there, done that?

Something that comes up on a regular basis when talking to people about rubbish is the comment “There just aren’t enough bins”.  (Unless you’re speaking with government officials, in which case it’s then a matter of “There are enough bins, people just don’t use them!”)

Last weekend’s Community Clean Up in Pewsham Park was no exception. I had some lovely chats with dog walkers and other regular users of the park, and this was something that was brought up again and again. Particularly in the area where we set up our gazebo: the lack of a bin in this corner of the park meant that bags upon bags of dog poo were uncovered nearby (and a big hand to Craig for carrying out this unpleasant task).

I mentioned that we didn’t have a map of bin locations to one dog walker; he reappeared 30 minutes later with a Google printout and locations drawn in (thank you, Nick, if you’re reading this!). It’s with data such as this that it becomes possible to see where the gaps are and where new bins should at least be considered. (Blue dots are from Nick, red circles are where I believe a bin could be useful).

So what is the ideal frequency of bins? I don’t believe that there has been any scientific study into the matter, but according to factoids from Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Mr. Disney himself recommended that bins be placed no more than 30 feet apart. This is approximately how far people will carry litter before dropping it. I admit I’ve never measured the bin-to-bin distance when at a theme park, but this makes sense to me: with bins every 30 feet or so, you should always have one in your line of sight. You don’t have to turn around or double back on yourself to dispose of something nor walk any distance out of your way. Getting rid of rubbish is made quick and easy, and it also implicitly establishes the norm – rubbish goes in the bin.

In all honesty, I think the UK has gone beyond the point where just adding new bins will make a dent in the amount of litter because a new, unfortunate norm has been already been set. But smarter bins, smarter bin placement, and a healthy dose of education may help stem the tide.

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