Waste Bins Reimagined

IDA Silver Award Winner Rendering by GiGi Romero

In a sustainable materials course, I proposed we look at redesigning public waste bins. In my work at the Presidio Waste Reduction Department, I came to notice the flaws of the vast majority of public bins. To start, they often are only a landfill bin (plus a non-labeled recycling bin, if you’re lucky). Beyond that, they are exposed to the elements and critters, making them inefficient at doing their primary job: holding waste. Finally, bins are something people try to avoid contact with because they are often confusing eye-sores. Yet we need to interact with them.

Savannah, GA Public Waste Bins, Photo Credit: Wan-Ching Yang,

My soon-to be teammates latched on to the idea of tackling the overlooked feature of public spaces, and we were off to the design table, with the simple imperative to design a product with ‘sustainable materials’. That product evolved into a system redesign. We found an opportunity to help sort existing waste, provide education, and provide community features. Under our brand: Cicadar©, we designed a 3-bin (compost, recycling, and landfill) modular waste system that has optional added components of: a planter, a bike repair station, a little free library, a cigarette butt catcher, and dog bag dispenser. Additionally, all the bin’s materials were designed to be durable, weather and animal resistant, and disassembled for reuse or recycling.

Rendering by GiGi Romero
Rendering by GiGi Romero
Rendering by GiGi Romero
Rendering by GiGi Romero

On this team, I headed up graphic design (see below for more information on my process). Along with book layout, I created a new, multilingual and educational signage, and a ‘No Landfill Packaging Certification’ sticker for local businesses to put in their windows.

Graphic design by Lara Isaacson
Graphic design by Lara Isaacson

We also redesigned and utilized multiple tools to help express our ideas and communicate how our services harmonized multiple interconnected systems. I visually redesigned the tools to fit our branding.

Graphic design process image by Lara Isaacson
Graphic design by Lara Isaacson

Although our inspiration was from Savannah, Georgia, our intent was to design for multiple contexts, cultures, and systems. From simple color changes, to changing the entire secondary use of the bin, Cicadar can do it all.

Rendering by GiGi Romero
Rendering by GiGi Romero

We presented our concept, receiving inspiring feedback from colleagues who could already see the potential for additional modules, including a ‘how compost works’ display or a cooler to store meals for the homeless. (Below you can see a snap shot from one of our presentations.)

Graphic Design Process

For the Waste Bins Reimagined project, I was head of Graphic Design for our process book and many of the graphics. I started with the basic concept of geometric shapes and the color palette inspired by a modern three bin waste system. The proof of concept is shown below.

Graphic design process image by Lara Isaacson
Graphic design process image by Lara Isaacson

From there, I refined the idea to circles to reflect our Cicadar© circular economy branding and team feedback.

Graphic design process image by Lara Isaacson
Graphic design process image by Lara Isaacson

The softened look was further iterated into the final, sophisticated but informative, process book design.

Graphic design final booklet image by Lara Isaacson
Graphic design final booklet image by Lara Isaacson