Circulation Project and Reflection – Nathan Babyak

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.



8 thoughts on “Circulation Project and Reflection – Nathan Babyak

  1. zic89 March 31, 2015 / 1:15 pm

    I love this circulation project, I really appreciated how widespread you were able to make it as well, as opposed to just hanging your sign on one trash can. I also really liked that you kept the signs simple because they really do speak for themselves. I also think that despite not having any tweets, it was cool that you were able to see people take note of your signs immediately and having people thank you is really what its all about, knowing that you are actually reaching people and making some kind of a difference, its very cool.


    • njbabyak March 31, 2015 / 1:20 pm

      Thank you, That means a lot to me.


  2. pjs73 March 31, 2015 / 8:06 pm

    I like how simple yet effective the arrows are. I think a lot of people got hung up on making their project complex or multifaceted but I think something like this is just as powerful because it’s so easy to notice. We all use trash cans, and I’m sure we all have missed the occasional 3-pointer trash shot from the back of the room and forgot to pick it up later. Very cool that the groundskeeper endorsed what you were doing! It must have felt nice to know that your work is having an impact (even if some jerk sees it and throws it on the ground anyway).


  3. cjc127 April 1, 2015 / 12:22 am

    This idea is awesome. I love how simple and bold it is. The placement of your fliers allow people to make changes to their habits while they are reading the paper. This is more memorable and more effective. I think that fliers around buildings blend together and often students don’t even read them. If you posted the same information on a bulletin board, people would be less likely to look at it and less likely to remember and act on what they read. Your idea didn’t give them any time gaps to forget your point. Really cool idea. I’m impressed to see that many of the signs are still hanging, showing you have some support.


  4. psm16 April 1, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    I think this was a simple, like you mentioned, but excellent and clearly effective idea. I was surprised (in a good way!) that something that seems rather non-interactive turned out to be interactive through the conversations that you had with people as you were hanging up the signs. I also found your idea of humility interesting and provocative. I don’t think anyone felt insulted by your signs (at least I would hope not) but I can attest that they were indeed humbling in that they forced me to reflect upon my own actions or in-actions. Often I see trash on the ground that I didn’t put there and don’t stop to pick it up, and a project like yours makes us more aware and introspective about our role in maintaining the beauty of Pittsburgh. Overall, awesome idea!


  5. seorhobae April 3, 2015 / 12:19 pm

    Your project was great. I actually saw the signs around the campus and it changed my views on littering. The simplicity of the approach i think worked extremely well. Your flyers were simple and to the point and i didn’t have to know statistics behind the issues of littering in order to persuade me to not litter. Especially after seeing the signs, i started looking out for trash on the ground and became much more self-aware about my littering habits. From this project I keep my cig butt until i can find a trashcan.


  6. Rebecca Zhou April 4, 2015 / 9:16 am

    I really like this project because I noticed all the signs before I realized it was from this class, more specifically you! I’m impressed by the simplicity of it, and the impacts you have left just from doing this small project is astounding! It just goes to show you how much of a difference one can make without having to do something over-the-top.


  7. dal135 April 5, 2015 / 10:20 pm

    This project is my favorite because of it’s simplicity. The message is clear and unobtrusive, but effective enough to change someone’s decision of whether to litter or use the trash can. It’d be cool if you took this idea one step further and placed these signs in other areas that are off campus.


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