Unsightly Trash Cans

An unlikely pairing – Cobourg Taxpayer Association (CTA) President Lydia Smith – and activist Wally Keeler, joined forces at Monday’s C.O.W. Council meeting to point out the “blight” of Trash Cans on Cobourg’s Waterfront.  As Wally said, “Trash cans do not have to be trashy-looking”.  Lydia gave three examples of trash cans that are in poor shape and said that they could be decorated or as a minimum re-painted. To illustrate her point, she presented photos of three examples – one near the cenotaph in Victoria Park, the second on the harbour front promenade and the third at the Ecology Garden (see photos below).  As Lydia said: “Our waterfront does not deserve this string of blight, but a string of bright trash bins that displays our civic pride in the crown of our waterfront.”

Trash can at Cenotaph
Trash can at Cenotaph

At right is a photo of the trash can at the cenotaph – Lydia described the situation:

This first bin serves the zone of respect around the Cenotaph. The bin is surrounded by solemn beauty and a well-tended garden. In a sad contrast, it sits like a wardrobe malfunction of benign neglect.

The other two are included in the gallery below.

After Lydia explained the problem, Wally explained what creative alternatives were possible.

Instead of mediocrity, why not have bright, beautiful and cheerful beach colours? Fun as opposed to formal and conservative heritage colours.

Trash cans do not have to be trashy-looking. Trash bins can be a venue for creativity and art as a bonding opportunity for community and as an enhancement to our waterfront. This is trash talk we can all get behind.

Wally suggested that the Town ask local artists to decorate cans – or perhaps include it in the next “battle of the brushes”.

Let’s not forget that we do at least HAVE trash cans around town and that usually they are regularly emptied.


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Wally Keeler
2 October 2018 10:33 am

Cobourg could do more like this pack of Imagine Natives in Poet Hope. https://www.todaysnorthumberland.ca/2018/10/01/via-rail-employees-lend-a-hand-or-two-in-port-hope/

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Wally Keeler
2 October 2018 1:06 pm
1 October 2018 3:38 pm

I like it!

26 September 2018 12:21 pm

An alternative to cheery art on the garbage cans is use the colours already in the nature palette around the cans – green, blue etc. I have also seen wood strips around garbage cans that is very attractive. I have to confess that I cringe at cheery cans. And yes – I do love art! But I don’t think it should be the focus in parks 😀

26 September 2018 10:36 am

Congratulations to Lydia and Wally for highlighting this easy-to-fix improvement to public areas!
Dear Town staff – a creative/fun fix would be even better.

Wally Keeler
25 September 2018 2:04 pm

One aspect of this project is Lydia Smith. She is the one who brought it to my attention. I do a daily pass of the park and noticed lots of things, but I did not notice the condition of the trash cans. So who is the mouthpiece in Cobourg for creativity; ME! So she called me out. I am grateful that she did. OPTION 1. Cobourg could determine the number of bins destined for Cobourg’s playgrounds and offering them for a family paint-in. The Town provides paint every year for the railings around the harbourfront and trailer park; likewise for the trash bins. The Art Gallery of Northumberland has expressed support for this particular project. It should not be difficult to include the secondary schools. OPTION 2. The Art Walk has wrapped up its second successful event. For two years the Battle of the Brushes has invited local artists to paint a canvas; winner gets a reward. In the interest of diversity, the framed canvas could be replaced with trash bins. The artist would see their bin performing its function within the park system. This particular project is likely to produce some high level creativity. The Battle of the Brushes is a DBIA project. OPTION 3. Another option for these trash cans are wraps. The Rotary Club could sponsor a bin or two with wraps promoting Ribfest. The same for other community events; Highland Games, Northumberland Players, bike races, etc. The bins would be located where many eyeballs can see them. The Cobourg Legion could sponsor a local art student to design an appropriate bin to serve the area around the cenotaph. Cobourg has considerable resources of creativity to call upon for these projects; Cobourg Art Club, Spirit of the Hills Art Association, Art Gallery of Northumberland, secondary school art… Read more »

Jason Beatty
25 September 2018 1:14 pm

“Wally suggested that the Town ask local artists to decorate cans – or perhaps include it in the next “battle of the brushes”.

Great idea. You could get local high school students who need to obtain their 40 community hours to participate possibly also

Potentially a great way to spruce up the area at minimal cost.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Jason Beatty
25 September 2018 1:43 pm

I have linked to other communities in NAmerica that have utilized community groups to paint municipal trash cans. Some small cities do it annually, but I don’t think there is enough turnover in Cobourg to warrant it annually. The AGN is interested in getting involved. It would be good to organize a community ‘paint-in’ for all those trash bins that will be placed next to playgrounds. This is a family event. The Battle of the Brushes has utilized wooden frames and canvas. Think outside the box; use trash bins for good art, which will be placed throughout our park system. What happens to the paintings on canvas after the BofB is over?

Another option is wraps. The Highland Games could sponsor a wrap advertising their event. Rotary Club could sponsor a wrap advertising Ribfest. They can be a venue for community events. Northumberland Players could sponsor a wrap advertising their fall season.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 September 2018 2:31 pm

I believe the majority of trash cans are removed in the park at the end of the summer season.
That is when they should be replaced if necessary and /or new ready for possible display covering ready for summer.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Bill Thompson
26 September 2018 11:46 am

I am sure there will be a hundred details to address before implementation. What kind of paint to use. What prep work needs to be done on a used can to make it safe for a family paint-in? What will be the location of the paint-in, indoors or outdoors? New 55-gallon drums cost $90-120 apiece. What is the turnover rate of trash bins? For the Battle of the Brushes, it would be best to select the 8-10 bins in the best condition, since these bins will be painted with high artistic creativity — they should get pride of place.

I contacted an American enterprise that specializes in barrel wraps for rodeos and resorts. Their cost came to approx $60US per bin.

Jason Beatty
Reply to  Wally Keeler
26 September 2018 11:52 am

If you wanted to possibly keep it local, Jamie Littlechild owns Beyond Signs and Design in Cobourg. I know they do vehicle wraps, I’m sure he’d be able to do barrel’s also.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Jason Beatty
26 September 2018 12:05 pm

Thanks very much for the tip. Yes, local is preferable. I will follow up on this.