from village to city, we are what we throw away

We clothe our discarded items in different forms and colors, but our built environments always have small places and features devoted to what we throw away.

This observation is nothing profoundly new, or empirically established. But this fundamental element of daily life creates a legible catalog of best practices followed by residents, municipalities and private contractors.


Two photos here tell the story. I have many others from around the world, but these two—above, from Findhorn, Scotland, and below, from a Seattle alley—show variations of access, style and color.

Note, particularly, the Scottish example, punctuating the otherwise mundane with color that suggests, “this is not such a bad thing, after all”.  Note, also, how despite the vegetation of the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle receptacles still somehow control the scene.


My personal take-away is that, in the instances shown here, mandating more fencing or enclosures for garbage and recycling containers would detract from the spontaneous delight of placement and expression.

Others may disagree on aesthetic or environmental grounds.  However, any such naysayers risk denying the wonders of the photogenic in favor of an unduly imposed regularity, better saved for another day.

Images composed by the author in Findhorn, Scotland, and Seattle. © 2009-2015 myurbanist. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

For more information on the role of personal experience in understanding the changing city, see Urbanism Without Effort, an e-book from Island Press.

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