Pink recycling bins turn trash into treasure

A Toronto-based outdoor media company is collaborating with a local art foundation to clean up the city and turn trash into treasure.

EcoMedia Direct and the Magenta Foundation are working together to turn recycling into a work of art in Toronto’s financial district and eventually—they hope—many other locations throughout the GTA.

On Oct. 4, the companies unveiled their take on creative and environmentally conscious advertising. Called the Flash Forward program, EcoMedia is using photographs entered into the Magenta Foundation’s photography contest of the same name to decorate fuchsia-coloured recycling bins.

“It’s not a regular old garbage can, it’s a recycling container people don’t mind using. They’re going to be thinking twice before they throw anything on the floor,” said Erich Genseberger, CEO of EcoMedia Direct.

While the colourful bins premiered in a month when many are already “thinking pink” for breast cancer awareness, the Magenta Foundation chose to use pink bins to represent their company’s moniker. The companies intend to attract attention to recycling by offering a clean, accessible and aesthetically pleasing alternative to littering or traditional trash cans.

“We want to make sure the public wants to use them,” Genseberger said. “We’re diverting recyclables from landfills and I think that’s a huge success for everybody. We know about landfills and how disliked and bad they are and we can honestly say we’re part of making sure that diversion is happening.”

The Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward photography competition receives hundreds of entries from photographers in Canada, the US and Europe. According to Magenta’s MaryAnn Camilleri, the photographs displayed on the bins had to fulfil a number of criteria before they were chosen.

Camilleri said the bins are as much about saving the environment as promoting home-grown artists—which is why the bins feature only Canadian and American submissions to Flash Forward, despite the international nature of the competition.

“This is just catering to sponsors and corporate, as you usually do,” said Camilleri, who was responsible for selecting which artwork would be featured on the bins. “But if they would give me another 20 bins I would fill them up in a second with everybody’s work.”

Genseberger says it is also important the bins fit into their surroundings, show photographs with universal appeal, and don’t display images that some may find distasteful.

“People cannot be against it, it has to be photography suitable for all ages,” Genseberger said. “We like to have landscapes and modern photography which fits into the city, and nobody can say ’Oh, it’s against our religion, it’s against our race.’ They have to be completely neutral so that nobody is offended by it.”

So what is the rationale behind putting professional photography on recycling bins? Is there a way to make recycling and garbage collection beautiful enough to deter litterbugs in the city? Reps from both EcoMedia and Magenta believe it’s possible.

“I think from our side it is a nice addition to Toronto, we’re definitely doing our part to beautify the landscape,” Genseberger said. “It’s not a regular old garbage can, it’s a recycling container people don’t mind using. They’re going to be thinking twice before they throw anything on the floor, it’s not like you don’t want to go to it because it’s dirty or it’s not been cleaned.”

For Camilleri, the bins represent an excellent opportunity to take care of Toronto’s litter while exposing passersby to interesting artwork produced by up-and-coming Canadian talent.

“I would also like to just expand it so that Toronto has a huge amount of our recycle bins covered in art,” Camilleri said. “It’s a great way of introducing art into the city and beautifying the city. My interest isn’t just with Flash Forward, it’s with art in general.”

In addition to enthusiasm from the corporate side, the artists displayed on the bins are “tickled pink” about the opportunity, Camilleri says.

“They were thrilled to be asked, thrilled to be included. Photographers on this level don’t get this opportunity or this exposure,” she said. “I would never have put them on recycling bins if I thought they were going to look horrible. They trust me 100 per cent and all of them are so excited.”

The Flash Forward bins will be on display until only January but EcoMedia and Magenta feel the chances for the project’s expansion are “great.” Both groups hope to take the project to the streets of New York as soon as the necessary permits are obtained.

For now, the bright pink bins are doing their part to brighten up Toronto. According to Genseberger, they’re diverting eight tonnes of recyclables from landfills each day and that’s a beautiful thing.

“I’m an environmentalist myself, not a tree hugger, but I do believe in preserving our environment for the people after us, our children,” he said. “This is just a little way for we as a community to do our part.”