Course MD901 Summer 2010

The New Garbage System

Salma Mashhour | Nada Kabil


One of the things that caught our attention in Al darb Al ahmar, was the trash that people throw in the streets, on fences, in window slits. In other words, any empty space is filled with trash.


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After studying and observing people’s behaviour in Al-Drab Al-Ahmar, it was clear that most people tend to “stuff” garbage in any hole or hidden area instead of throwing away the trash in the bin. The stuffing action can be an unconscious action that is done by people who don’t want to throw their trash in the streets and therefore feel the need to hide their trash .. resulting to the stuffing action. Or maybe it has just become a trend that they have gotten used to after seeing all the fences, holes and broken slits stuffed with trash.


Photo by Salma Mashhour ... Human Behaviors

OUT OF THE BEHAVIOR .. CAME THE OBJECT That’s exactly what happened when this garbage system idea was created. This wall was an inspiration for making a new garbage system, that is somehow vertical and is already considered a kind of garbage bin, due to the stuffing action which encourages them to throw their trash there. Since their behaviour had already resulted into using this wall for their trash, the initial idea was to use this wall which was already common for this action and enhance it into becoming the new garbage system. This picture proves that our target group, already understand the concept that we want to create in the new garbage system, even if it an action they are not aware of doing.

RESEARCH (In-depth Interviews)


-Some qualities and features prompt us to behave in particular ways. (Thoughtless acts, Jane Fulton + IDEO)

- " I Don't usually find a place to throw, therefore I stuff it anywhere." Kiosk Owner in Al Darb Al Ahmar.

-" I just don't know, i've never thought about it before, but i always feel ashamed after doing it." Heliopolis citizen.

-" I wanted to throw away a piece of paper and i kept looking for a rubbishbin, but couldn't find one. On the way, i found a pipe underneath a broken tile, in the streets and i kept on trying to aim at hiding the piece of paper inside it." Heliopolis Citizen (Man)

-" I was on my way home from mcdonalds and had just finished drinking the soft drink, i couldn't find anywhwere to throw it, and then i came across a VW car, where the brand sign was missing or stolen, and so i stuffed the bottle in it." Heliopolis Citizen (Man)

-" Even if there's no rubbish bin around, i wouldn't ever stuff! i would prefer to throw the trash in the streets, because stuffing in a wall would mean having the trash concentrated in a small area, making it look filthy, whereas the streets are alot wider, so the rubbish would not be so obvious." University Student.

- " I would only stuff, if there's no trash can around. Somehow, it feels better than throwing on the ground, because it's not ON the ground. "

IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS with Al Darb Residents

Interviews were made with al darb residents regarding the stuffing issue to find out: why do they stuff, where do they stuff, and who stuffs more?? also interesting stories about stuffing were said by non darb residents, whom seemed to be proud of it.


-Unconscious behavior

Trying to use the unconscious behaviour of "stuffing" and transforming it into a method of throwing garbage by making it a conscious action.

- New Garbage systems

Using the unconscious behaviours of people to come up with new methods or techniques of throwing garbage and therefore limiting the throwing of trash in the streets.

- Playful

Using the sense of fun to attract the people to the object by making it in a sort of game.

- Interactive

Attracting the people to the garbage system by making it interactive through playing the game or making them have to do something in order for something else to happen.

- Experimental

Using the new garabage system to find out whether it will work to make the unconscious behaviour conscious and get people to "stuff" by interacting with the game.


The questions we want to answer or want to tackle through our research are:

.How to encourage people not to throw trash in the streets?

by promoting the usage of the new garbage system, people will get used to throwing their trash there, instead of throwing in the streets. It is derived from an action that the subconscious tends to do, which is stuffing, or hiding the trash instead of actually throwing it in the streets and therefore satisfies the guilt.

.How to use people’s behaviour of throwing rubbish as an inspiration to create a new method (system) for throwing garbage?

.How to make people aware of their behaviors (habbits)?

Because this action (stuffing) is done without the person being aware of the action, we need to motivate and make them acknowledge of this action.

.Are those behaviors (stuffing) ethical, would it serve as a solution?

This question is one of the results we plan on finding out and putting to the test.

.Will their behaviour change once it’s acknowledged?

.Will people still do the same if their unconscious behaviour is acknowledges publicly?

.How to encourage people to accept the Installation as the new garbage system?




Through the New Interactive Garbage System, we plan to add the Element Of Fun in a sort of Game, by which Flashy lights will be used as a trigger and a reward to encourage people to be more interactive with the installation.

As for the technical resolution, an Arduino board will be used to program the game. Not only this but also we will be using a Camera, to record and observe people’s reactions towards the Bin. How will they approach it, when , and whom will use it more frequently?


The new garbage system is a way of opening their eyes to their behaviours to make them aware of what they are doing and encourage them not to throw the garbage in the streets. The new garbage system attracts people by calling them to it and after they use their stuffing technique, the wall starts to light with flashy colours that are used all over the area, to blend in.

. Bin Calling (sound) The idea was to use a sound as an attraction, something to make the people acknowledge the existence of the bin, and understand that they are supposed to throw their trash there. The sounds we had in mind were more provocative sounds, something to grab a persons attention, such as a whistle, or a psst sound, to encourage them to use it.

. Awareness As mentioned above, the calling sounds will raise awareness to the existence of a new garbage system, and encourage them in a way to not only throw their trash there, but also be aware of the habit they do without realizing.

. Stuffing (action) The next action is to throw or "stuff" the garbage in the wall.

. Lighting (reaction) The light will result from the stuffing action as a reward.

. Achievement (goal)

. Developing concept of the wall: Using different sizes of slits or holes to hold different objects, for example having a small rectangular hole for a pepsi can, whereas a larger hole would be needed for putting the leftovers of food.

. Taking a different approach, we thought of making the new garbage system a bit more 3D rather than the 2D wall. This is when the idea of having a circular or cylindrical object came where it would be possible to go around the entire object and choose where to "stuff" in it.

. Another idea was to have a completely alienated object that could be used as a source of attraction to trigger people's curiousity and make them want to know more about this object and why it is so odd or what it does and therefore try out the new garbage system to figure out how it works and functions.


This short video explains how the first idea of using a vertical wall works. In this video, the first prototype is made out of wood and includes a sensor that senses when anything is put within the holes resulting in lighting the LEDs surrounding the box.


. Site: the chosen site, or the most appropriate site that came to our mind was next to a kiosk. The reason behind this was to encourage the buyers to throw away their trash straight away in our new garbage system, and also to have someone (the kiosk owner) take care of the new garbage system.

. Material: In order to blend in with the environment, we thought about using the coca cola boxes used to store the re-filled bottles. These boxes are already stored next to the kiosk and will help make the new garbage system blend in the environment and be part of the overall system that our eyes are used to.

. Usage (interaction):After using the prototype, we realized that the size of the boxes don't match the "stuffing" concept due to its large size, and therefore the size of the boxes need to be adjusted in order for the concept to work.

. Design


. Different slit sizes: to make more than one size for the slits, some to fit cans, or plastic bags or just tissues. .To use the colour of lights matching the colours of the coca-cola boxes, which are red, green, blue and yellow, which will emphasize the colours and be more appealing, but still blending in. . Recycle: making different sizes can also be the start of a recycling system, to ave a slit for metal, a slit for glass, a slit for paper and so on.

. Are sounds very provocative that women wouldn't want to pay attention?? this is a question we need to look into. Will the provocative sounds lead people to ignoring the wall instead of approaching it? IF yes, what other sounds can be use. Maybe something like the robabekya sound, that everyone is familiar with, but related to garbage.

. Kiosk owner ONLY responsible for collecting the same pack of garbage, as he was used to (not to over burden him, or give him a new responsibility) ... or would he like to help, since we will raise the sense of belongings towards the system???


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After spending time in Al Darb Al Ahmar, we found a few sites that we considered possible to use for our installation.

The first suggestion is the wall that inspired us with this project to start with. The spaces between the bricks which are sometimes "stuffed" with garbage, is where the idea started from.

The second suggestion is a small grocery store or a tiny supermarket, but is in an area where people take things on the go, and do not stand around and throw their trash.

The third suggestion is the only kiosk we found in Al Darb Al Ahmar. The idea of a kiosk itself was very relevant to our topic, because kiosks are like a socail gathering for guys after school or at night, and therefore alot of garbage will be used by them. The kiosk in the picture is owned by a guy called "3am Yehia" that we talked to, he was very interested in the project and in the concept of trying 2 fix the problem they face with garbage.

The fourth suggestion is also a kiosk but in a more social and known area, where people tend to gather around it in events and occasions, and not just a pass by kiosk. That's why we thought of implementing our installation there, for people to get to know and interact with it more often. Moreover the kiosk owner showed interest and offered his help to take care of the installation. He also mentioned that such an installation would attract more people to gather around thus would increase his sales.


After deciding on using the 3d cylindrical concept for our project, in order to make it easier and more interesting for the users, the next step was to start the designing process.

The design phase was divided into 2 parts:

1. Software stage:

using arduino to design a code in which the system will be implemented. The code was designed to create a system that interacts with the users by lighting.

  1. define led1 8
  2. define led2 9
  3. define led3 10
  4. define led4 11
  5. define led5 12
  6. define led6 13
  7. define sensor1 2
  8. define sensor2 3
  9. define sensor3 4
  10. define sensor4 5
  11. define sensor5 6
  12. define sensor6 7


int state;

void setup () {

  pinMode (led1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (led2, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (led3, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (led4, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (led5, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (led6, OUTPUT);

  pinMode (sensor1, INPUT);
  pinMode (sensor2, INPUT);

state = 0;

} void loop (){

  if (digitalRead(sensor1) == HIGH)
    state = 1;

  if (state == 1)
     digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led4, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led5, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led5, LOW);
    if(digitalRead(sensor2) == HIGH)
      state = 2;


   if (state == 2)
    digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led2, HIGH) ;   
    digitalWrite(led4, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led5, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led5, LOW);
    if(digitalRead(sensor3) == HIGH)
      state = 3;

 if (state == 3)

    digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led2, HIGH) ;
    digitalWrite(led3, HIGH);   
    digitalWrite(led5, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led6, LOW);
    if(digitalRead(sensor4) == HIGH)
      state = 4;
   if (state == 4)

    digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led2, HIGH) ;
    digitalWrite(led3, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led4, HIGH);   
    digitalWrite(led6, LOW);
    if(digitalRead(sensor5) == HIGH)
      state = 5;

  if (state == 5)

    digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led2, HIGH) ;
    digitalWrite(led3, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led4, HIGH); 
    digitalWrite(led5, HIGH);  
    if(digitalRead(sensor6) == HIGH)
      state = 6;


  if (state == 6)

    digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led2, HIGH) ;
    digitalWrite(led3, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led4, HIGH); 
    digitalWrite(led5, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(led6, HIGH);   



void blink_led (int led) {

   digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
   digitalWrite(led, LOW);


The system that the code was designed to do was that when stuffing in the first hole.. it lights and blinks the 2nd hole at the same time. The blinking indicates that this is the hole that should be stuffed into. When stuffing into the 2nd hole, the blinking stops and lights a solid light, as well as starting to blink the 3rd hole to indicate that this hole is the one that should be stuffed into...and this is the system that applies to all 6 holes.

The software is uploaded on the arduino board that connects the inputs(switches) to the outputs(LEDs) and when pressing on the switches it lights the LEDs.

2. The hardware stage

We then cut 6 holes into it the size of an average hand so the stuffing technique can take place. Plexi glass was surrounding the holes in order to give a stronger light.

To link the hardware and the software together, wooden blocks were attached from the inside of the garbage can holding the switches that sense when someone stuffs garbage into the hole and then makes the LEDs light.

2 LEDs were placed on the top and bottom of each hole using flashy colours to be more attractive.


This video shows how we came about of making the prototype we used for the installation.


We took the new garbage system to test it out on Al darb Al ahmar residents. It was put infront of a kiosk where alot of people were gathered round. Many people were attracted to try and figure out what this was and why it was lighting. The children lined up to try it out and even the grown ups wanted to have a go. Even when we shut it down, the kids were still stuffing and chanting that they want it again. The older people said that it was a great idea, and they were very happy that we were thinking of ways to deal with the garbage problem, but the kiosk owner said that he wouldn't want it beside his kiosk so as not to attract kids and chaos.

We tried it out in 2 different places in Heliopolis, a kiosk where one of the people understood the installation straight away and started buying things from the kiosk to try it, and another person made fun of it, referring to it as a "robot".

Another place was the social gathering infront of a small grocery and there people were amazed, they stayed a great amount of time trying to understand how it works and what it is, until they discovered and were fascinated. They even starrted coming up with new ideas and feedback.



Some of the feedback we got was that it was a really good idea, and that if we put it in a nice place, people will definitely use it, and just trying to find out how it works would make people collect a lot of garbage, leading to cleaner places. A few ideas were then stated. First of all, that it should be put in an area where kids were not around because they would be sure to ruin or rip the wires or lights.

The second idea was that the lights could be used as an indicator of the amount of garbage inside the garbage system, for instance if it was one third full it should light yellow, if half way it should light green, if its full it should light red and therefore be an indicator for a distance to how full it is, so that people would not approach it if it was already full. This would be suitable for Egyptians as they tend to be a bit lazy and like things to be obvious and easy.

The overall conclusion from observing what happened and what was said was that putting this installation with garbage inside and letting one hole light was very intriguing for the people passing by, making them want to try and understand what this installation is or what it does. Because it triggered that sense of curiosity, it led people to gather a large amount of garbage from the surrounding area in order to understand how it works, how it lights and which system it uses in order to light. The light itself was thought to be very attractive and a motivation for the people to try and understand what they need to do in order to light all the holes.