For my circulation project, I decided to hang “Trash goes here, not here” signs on garbage cans all over the Pitt (lower) campus and then post a picture of one to my twitter feed. I hung these signs on a total of 15 garbage cans in various buildings and locations. My goals for this project were to remind people to try a little harder to make sure their garbage ends up in the can instead of on the ground. Not all litter is thrown directly on the ground by a careless litter bug but ends up there because someone accidentally missed the can. We’ve all missed. But not all of us pick it up when that happens.
I chose to hang my signs on garbage cans that are located in high volume foot-traffic areas to make sure that I had as much exposure to as many people as possible for as long as possible before my signs were either torn down or destroyed by weather. The cans that I chose were really acting as symbols for ALL garbage cans. My hope is that when a person wants to throw something away, this simple message will resonate with them for some time after they see it. So, the more people who see the signs, the more trash that ends up in cans instead of on the ground.
I came up with this idea one night at my job. As many, of you know I work at a community center that has basketball courts. There are three, 55 gallon garbage cans in the gym. When I am at work, one of my responsibilities is to pick up any trash left on the gym floor at the end of the night and empty the cans. Over and over I go down to the gym and it never ceases to amaze me when a piece of trash is left on the floor, next to the garbage can. So I began to think that maybe people really do need reminded of how a trash can works. Trash goes through that big hole on the top, not left on the ground for someone else to take care of.
The beauty of my message is in its simplicity. It’s almost an insult until you start to think about it and suddenly you remember how much trash you see on the ground around garbage cans but not inside. Just like “Don’t drink and drive” and “wear a seat belt” my message should be taken with a sense of humility the same way. Here in our 21st century lives surrounded by technology, I think it’s necessary to be reminded how simple something can be. We can build iPads and clone animals but we can’t seem to throw our trash into a can properly.
Unfortunately there were no re-tweets or likes for my twitter post but People began to take notice of my signs immediately as I was hanging them. I was thanked three times, by three different people walking past as I was hanging them. The most interesting interaction I had during this project was when a University groundskeeper approached me to see what I was hanging. He started to tell me to take it down when the words cam into clear sight. He paused, re-read the signs a few times, and changed his mind. Very much to my surprise, the man told me that it was only going to “make his job easier” and that it was a good thing I was doing. I was allowed to leave them there.
Between my three “thank-you’s” from my fellow students and the groundskeeper letting my sign stay up, I felt quite fulfilled. To tell you the truth, even if I saved one piece of trash from ending up on the ground before they were torn down, this project did exactly what I wanted it to do.