Les Halles: Trash

Arturo, Bree, Monika, Patrick

Through mapping of trash cans and recycling bins, observation of extraneous trash and miscategorized waste, and interviews of pedestrians (on trash can accessibility), we analyzed the effectiveness of the current system of trash removal in Les Halles. A few key issues that we noticed were centered around the ineffective distribution of trash cans and the inadequate access to recycling in the area. Trash cans were concentrated in a few key areas (near the Fountain, specifically), while smaller pedestrian streets were left lacking. Consequently, people in these areas were left without a convenient trash disposal option, and the streets were more littered, with everything from cigarettes to trash bags. Recycling bins were also rare and difficult to find, and when they were accessible, they tended not to be located near trash bins—consequently, the categorization of trash and recyclables was inconsistent. Recyclables tended to get placed into trash bins and vice-versa—the norm was not to recycle (as it is in other locations, and other arrondissements throughout Paris—this was pointed out by a citizen we interviewed). This is an issue that would be relatively easy to solve—it’d depend on the strategic redistribution of trash cans in the area, the addition of more recycling bins (located nearer to the trash cans), and increased education on how and why to recycle.

In order to quantify our hypotheses about trash can distribution, we mapped all trash cans and recycling bins in the Châtelet-Les Halles area. After finding the location of all trash cans in the area, we constructed 20-meter “accessibility zones” around all trash cans, the idea being that people without a trash can in relative proximity would be discouraged from disposing of trash properly. (In reality, there are many factors further discouraging proper use of trash cans, including obstructions in line of sight and full trash cans; we used a simple 20-meter radius for sake of simplicity). These maps confirmed the lack of effective distribution of trash cans (see below). Specifically, many shopping corridors were not properly equipped with trash cans whereas the Fountain of Innocents area was over-equipped.

Map Map

To make proper trash disposal more accessible to citizens all across Les Halles, and more likely for those who seek convenience, we are proposing to redistribute trash cans more effectively, based on the model of the blue light system utilized at Harvard for security purposes. At least one of these blue lights, which people can use to call security in a time of need, is visible from any place on Harvard’s campus—this ensures that no matter where someone is, they know where to go to get access to help when in need. Though trash disposal isn’t as immediately urgent of a matter, the same principle can still apply to make people more likely to dispose of their trash. By strategically placing these trash cans around the region, we could easily make it so that one is visible from every vantage point. Ideally, the same could be done with recycling bins, to avoid misuse of the bins for convenience’s sake.

Education is also a key aspect of the improvement of the trash management system in Les Halles. Many people are simply not aware of recycling bins, or which color-coded bin takes which type of object. There is a language barrier for tourists in the region. We’re proposing to use graphic educational posters that we’ve created (see below) to make people aware of the waste categorization and to make them more likely to participate. Ideally, this use of infographics would help to set a new norm in Les Halles, one of healthier waste disposal habits.


In the future, it would also be beneficial to develop “smart” trash cans, which would be wifi and GPS enabled and have sensors to determine when they are full (notifying trash collectors and facilitating data collection). This would allow the community to collect useful data on trash disposal in certain regions and distribute the trash cans in even more effective and strategic locations, figuring out which ones are being used often and which are not. Smart trash cans could also be equipped with positive reinforcement mechanisms to encourage waste disposal (such as a pleasant “ding” sound or other positive cue upon throwing away trash).

Our presentation (includes our video, interviews, posters, and photos from the project)

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