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What is the use of litter bin?

Sep. 12, 2023
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Council provides hundreds of litter bins in convenient public spaces for the community to use and empties the bins regularly to prevent litter on our streets.


Putting waste in the appropriate bins preserves the quality of the environment in general and the urban environment in particular. Properly disposed of waste does not have to be collected by the citys cleaning services, which also significantly reduces the costs of maintaining urban cleanliness, and therefore the burden on taxpayers.


It is therefore necessary to act, first of all, on behaviour, which is precisely the role of prevention. This can be based on intrinsic motivations, the power of which is still underestimated. The team from the Humboldt University in Berlin measured (by pupillary reactions) the emotional charge of abandoning waste in public spaces. Dr. Rebekka Gerlach emphasises: Contrary to what the experts had previously thought, this apparently minor offence triggers a major reaction in the perpetrator. Violating social norms or our values provokes a strong feeling of injustice. This could be used as a driving force for behavioural changes and confirms the potential of prevention actions.



Street litter bins play a particularly inciting role in prevention, but there is no one size fits allrecipe. Indeed, adding litter bins to every street corner indiscriminately is not enough to improve cleanliness. On the contrary, several cities have found that a smaller number of litter bins yields better results when certain conditions are met.



In Europe, public waste receptacles are part of urban furniture. However, their integration into urban architecture varies greatly from one city to another. For example, some touristic cities try to hide them so as not to make their squares look ugly. However, for waste receptacles to fulfil their role they must be visible and their function must be well understood.


In Cologne, the University of Humboldt characterized the impact of bin visibility on the level of cleanliness, measured by a DSQS cleanliness index from 0 (clean) to 30 (dirty)(1). Adding a colored strip to make the bins more visible improved the cleanliness index from 9.7 to 8.6. Reinforcing the message with posters further improved the level of cleanliness (DSQS of 7.4) The city of Annemasse in France replicated this experiment with brightly colored litter bins. Although the effect was not measured quantitatively, the cleaning services observed a decrease in the amount of paper, cans and cigarette butts on the ground and an increase in the bins3 .



The AVPU (Association des Villes pour la Propreté Urbaine) reports that France has an average of one litter bin per 135 inhabitants. This figure varies from 30 to 300 in the sample of 51 cities surveyed5. A German counterpart, the VKU (Verband Kommunaler Unternehmen), reports one litter bin for every 129 inhabitants 6.


However, the increase in the number of litter bins does not necessarily lead to a reduction in litter on the ground. According to Laurent Calatayud, head of cleaning management in Nice: After upgrading the number of litter bins, we are now approaching the issue differently. Indeed, the litter bin should be considered as a piece of furniture integrated into a shared urban space. With our Cleanliness and Sustainable Development Observatory, we measure the quantities of waste on the ground to analyse whether the location of the litter bin is appropriate and whether it is fulfilling its role. We have found that in many areas, by positioning them better, we can reduce the number of litter bins while maintaining an equivalent level of cleanliness, or even higher in some cases. This approach has been favoured by some French cities such as Vieux-Boucaud, Rennes, Cherbourg, Le Porge, Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez and Nevers. According to Jean-Pierre Auge, director of operations in Nevers, quoted in the study 7: the multiplication of bins is not a guarantee of greater cleanliness. With half as many bins and a better will, and with more education, we will do better.

As we have seen, visible and well-placed bins are much more effective. It is therefore difficult to determine an optimal quantity per inhabitant without measuring the level of cleanliness. What Laurent Calatayud of Nice proposes is to determine the quantities and positions of litter bins according to the level of soiling measured in the street. This approach of placing street furniture according to the level of cleanliness measured locally has already borne fruit in the case of ashtrays for the town of Montreux 4. Franck Volpi, urban cleaning manager of the city of Geneva, adds: With the Clean City Lab, we were able to demonstrate that the new litter bins we designed were twice as effective as the previous ones. We will gradually replace the current fleet of 2,000 litter bins, accompanying this change with measurements of the level of cleanliness. Our objective is to reduce the number of litter bins by one third.


Certaines zones critiques demandent une démarche dédiée. Les zones de collecte de déchets ménagers, en France les « points dapport volontaires » ou les poubelles qui débordent fréquemment sont des « points chauds » qui semblent provoquer les mauvais comportements et attirer les déchets sauvages ou le littering. Il faut dans ce cas revoir le concept de la zone afin quelle puisse absorber les déchets à collecter et éviter un effet daccumulation.


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