Philadelphia’s Eco-friendly Trashcans: Gross!

Big Belly Trash can. Would you want to touch that handle? From:

In an effort to compose of its trash in a more eco-friendly way, Philadelphia released its solar-compacting trashcans upon Broad Street last year.

Great idea, right? There’s just one small problem: Unlike your average trashcan on the street, which only requires you to simply drop a piece of trash into it, ours have greasy handles, which you are required to touch in order to open the lid.


I’m a big believer in not littering. I even intern now at Grid Magazine– a Philadelphia environmental and sustainability magazine. I have no problem holding onto a piece of garbage until a trashcan is in sight. But now as I walk though Center City, I run from trashcan to trashcan, hoping that someone else is already in the process of throwing something away. I could then try to toss my garbage in through the open lid. This usually fails, and ends in pointed-stares, because there’s a reason why I never play basketball.

As I’ve mentioned dozen of times before, I’m a hypochondriac, and the thought of what real or imaginary diseases that those handles may give me is unacceptable. I’ve been grossed out by them for so long now. That’s why I was ecstatic to come across this blog post on that called out the trashcan’s icky-ness.

Here’s how the piece put it:

having now spent many instances walking up to one with my hands full or otherwise not in the mood to touch a greasy handle in order to throw away some small piece of trash, I gotta ask: Why is the recycling portion of these double units a simple hole to toss into while the trash part requires several hydraulic-oriented movements to accomplish? Seems to me that making throwing trash away easier, rather than harder, would be a boon to a city that’s launched multiple anti-litter campaigns and still finds trash lying around all over town.

This hit it right on the unsanitary nose. I don’t even touch the lid of my trashcan at home with my bare hands. Why would I want to actually touch one shared by thousands on any given day…especially by people who’ve been carrying trash and who knows what else?

Quite honestly these handles hurt Philadelphia’s “Unlitter us” cause. If feelings of queasiness take over every time one comes into contact with the cans, it becomes less and less motivating to actually use them.

Now, I wouldn’t litter just because I’m grossed out. I will use a piece of paper, cloth or someone else’s hands to open it. The point is, though, they’re making it more of an inconvenience instead of letting gravity pull trash into an open hole. Gravity doesn’t need to wear gloves after all.

I understand that these solar-powered cans and their “hydraulic-oriented movements” are complex. But, come on. We’re living in the age of particle accelerators and plans to build robots to mine asteroids. You’re telling me that these trashcans can’t be designed to feature a simple peddle that can be stepped on to open the lid?

Disgustingly ridiculous!

So, the next time I’m walking through Center City, I’ll be armed with hand wipes and Purell, ready to do my part in “unlittering” Philadelphia. Let’s just hope our city never runs dry of hand sanitizers. Because on that dirty day, when we’re holding trash and staring hand to greasy handle with one of these cans, Mother Earth and all things green, please forgive us…


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