When was the last time you went to a public park? During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are staying closer to home, but are craving fresh air for their health and for exercise! They’re heading to local parks and trails where they can physically distance themselves from others while enjoying the health benefits of being outdoors.
But, with the increased traffic in these public spaces this past year, the trash problem is also increasing. Even where city trash bins exist, they’re overflowing or vandalized. Trash is piling up, making a relaxing stroll through the park into a disgusting, unhealthy walk.
What can we all do to make our outdoor public spaces attractive and safe again? Here are four things we can encourage the general public to do so we can all enjoy public parks during the pandemic.
Dispose of masks and gloves
Pre-pandemic, we used to see fast food trash overflowing from city trash bins. Now, it seems that used masks and gloves are strewn everywhere. It’s much worse than a couple of used french fry wrappers.
To help reduce needless litter of these potentially contaminated items, we can encourage others (and ourselves) to keep spare gloves and masks in zippered bags and purses or in zippered pockets so they don’t fall out. It’s also a good practice to keep wearing your personal protective gear until you get inside your car or home again.
Emphasize “leave no trace” protocols
Hikers and campers follow an unspoken code to “leave no trace” that they were there…but it now seems we all need a little reminder.
Encourage others to bring reusable containers if they’re bringing snacks to parks. And, ensure that proper city trash bins and receptacles are near parking lots and picnic areas so people don’t have to go far to dispose of their garbage. The farther people must go to find a waste bin, the more tempting it becomes for them to simply toss trash to the ground.
Create creative signage
No one likes being told what to do. If you have a sign telling people not to walk through a fresh-planted flower bed, people will walk through the flower bed. Same for “No Parking” signage and signage reminding people to throw away their trash.
But, if you can make someone smile, they’re more likely to listen to your request. For example, dog poop is a big problem in many parks. Owners just leave it laying around. Instead of putting up signage saying, “Pick up after your dog,” create a humorous graphic or slogan encouraging them to dispose of it safely in city trash bins. Some municipalities like to add a silly graphic or phrase to the sign or make a little rhyme or marketing campaign from it.
Same for garbage in city trash bins. We already have plenty of “please dispose of your garbage in receptacles” signage everywhere, which is a great start. But think of more humorous ways to get your message across like “Please throw all banana peels in the garbage. Mario Kart is not played here!”
Remotely check trash levels
Sometimes the level of strewn trash in an area is related to how frequently the community garbage cans are emptied. They may need emptying more often, like on a busy long weekend. It can be costly to send staff to the site to empty them, especially if they arrive to discover it doesn’t really need to be emptied.
Did you know that you can soon remotely monitor trash levels in city trash bins? Surface level monitoring systems are currently being tested and one of the possible applications is to monitor city trash bin levels. This information can be wirelessly transmitted so you get a notification when levels reach a prespecified point (aka, before they overflow everywhere).
The benefits of this technology are limitless. One of the biggest benefits is being able to optimize staff schedules to only send janitorial staff where and when they’re needed. You can use this information to better plan employee schedules and routes too.
What’s the solution?
The solution to our trash management problem during the pandemic is three-fold:
- Have garbage cans
Often the presence of garbage cans is enough to encourage most people to use them.
- Make them easy to use
In our new pandemic-world, we also want them to be touchless (ie: we don’t want to open a lid with our hands to dispose of our garbage if possible).
- Have enough of them
One garbage can in a heavily trafficked park isn’t going to be enough. Have them strategically placed at entrances, in parking lots, near picnic benches so people don’t have to go far to dispose of their trash.
Once you get the magic combination of these three strategies, you’ll notice a decrease in litter strewn on the ground. You’ll save your city trash bin pick-up teams time and money too!
Public parks, community centers, hiking trails, and other public spaces are more enjoyable and safer to use when they are kept clean and trash-free. We’re not getting out of our homes much during the pandemic but when we do, we have the right to enjoy nature without unsightly and unsanitary trash littering our public spaces or overflowing community garbage cans.
A random metal or plastic garbage bin might not be enough. Outside garbage receptacles need to be easy to install, attractive, and durable so they get used. Reliance Foundry has long delivered high quality castings to help facilities and cities make places people want to be. In 2020, we began offering accessible, easy-to-use city trash bins to help keep our parks and public spaces clean. Talk to us about your public trash management struggles in your facility or public site today.