Trash And Treasure The Game

Litter will always be an issue in urban areas. It is so easy for empty cans and packaging to end up on the street rather than the bin. Eindhoven Design Academy graduate Wouter Vastenow looks at how cleaning up the streets can be changed from a chore to an inviting game for people passing by.

With the ‘De Afvalbank’ or ‘The Waste Bench’, Vastenow attempts to make cleaning up the streets fun. The bench acts like a regular piece of street furniture, with a clever extra feature. Kick a piece of rubbish into the slot in the base and it will disappear inside. Kick it in just the right way and get a congratulatory chime rewarding your good aim.

In many urban areas we have become complacent with the sight of litter. Many of us walk by without noticing; probably because we have been conditioned to believe that if we didn’t put it there, why is it our job to clean it up. This simple project not only allows people an easy and fun way to help, it also serves to enhance the awareness of its existence. Instead of disgust, the presence of empty drink cans near one of these benches may instead incite thoughts of potential fun; the same way a pile of dry, crunchy leaves tempts us in the autumn.


The design is clever in its simplicity, though has many diverse benefits. Firstly, it encourages interaction between people that may not otherwise interact. This not only assists in activating public space in a playful and inclusive way, it increases the sense of social safety and belonging. Secondly, it raises awareness of the great quantities of waste that is removed by cleanup services of municipalities on a daily basis. Trash becomes more visible if one of these benches are installed nearby. Lastly, this project enables an easy and positive action from all members of the public. Apart from the obvious practical benefits of cleaning up the streets, people can walk away with a sense that they are doing a good thing. That’s a nice final touch.

As part of the graduating exhibition at Eindhoven’s School of Design, Vastenow’s project was one of many innovative ideas on display. The extensive array of proposals contributed to the overall sense of positivity and progress across the Dutch Design Week Program. As long as current issues are tackled in new and thoughtful ways, the future city is in good hands.