New York residents are generally pretty savvy about waste management companies' rules for putting out recycling—glass and plastics in transparent bags, newspaper and cardboard bundled—and I remember seeing (somewhat baffling) rows of recycling bins in Tokyo, but it requires diligence on a broad scale. Hence, statistics such as: "The average Dane generates about 624 kg of waste per year [but only] 12% of the daily waste is recycled."
Cause for concern though this may be, the situation also presents an opportunity. Denmark's largest waste mangement company Vestforbrænding is partnering with Join.dk to hold an international design competition to motivate Danes to "Sort Your Trash Can."
The brief? To create a "version of a user-friendly sorting-can that fits the private Danish household." Entries will be judged on five criteria: behavior change, design communication, flexibility, context and functionality.
...citizens are not just citizens. They are a collection of very diverse people with different needs. There are large families and small families, single people, older people and some with special needs. Some people need big bins, others need small bins. Some citizens would like to have their garbage cans out of sight, while others want to flash their environmental awareness. Some want their trash out by the garage, others want it right outside the kitchen window.
But there's a twist, of sorts: the community is encouraged to comment, tossing out ideas for a chance to win additional prizes such as an iPad 3.
The ideal process is to upload a brainstorm sketch of your initial thoughts as early as possible, while end users, Vestforbænding and everybody else on Join.dk can give suggestions for improvements of your idea. If lots of people like and comment on your design or idea and you also implement modifications, your design will get more positive attention.
We're curious to see the entries ourselves: although the competition is open to anyone, Dane or not, the brief and judging criteria include cultural factors such as localized behavior, mores regarding waste and even the size and shape of the cans. But if this seems like a 'home team advantage,' maybe this is precisely why an outsider might be able to bring new thinking to the old problem.
The competition launched last week and will run for three months, until the October 28 deadline. If you're looking for inspiration, some of the receptacles we've seen before might be adapted for the competition. Check out sortyourtrashcan.com, or enter at Join.dk.