The Central Park Conservancy

Using innovative design to change behavior

Landor created a suite of three waste receptacles that encourages sorting with visual cues and boosted recycling by 35 percent.


The Central Park Conservancy

The Central Park Conservancy

Nonprofits & institutions

Innovation & new concepts
Branded environments
Identity & design
Green branding & sustainable design

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity: Product Design Lion
Chicago Anthenaeum Good Design Awards: Environments
SEGD Global Design Awards: Merit
Spark Product Design Awards: Silver
International Design Awards: Gold in urban sustainable design


Since 1980, the Central Park Conservancy has worked to restore, maintain, and enhance New York City’s Central Park, one of the most beloved and, with more than 40 million visitors a year, one of the most used public urban spaces in America. Even in today’s modern world, one of the Conservancy’s biggest challenges is age old: trash. With a grant from Alcoa Foundation and Alcoa Inc., the Conservancy enlisted Landor to collaborate on a new waste and recycling system—one that would make the park’s environment more sustainable. 

Design challenge and inspiration

Central Park is a National Historic Landmark, designed in the nineteenth century by legendary designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Adding new elements to such an iconic landscape demands careful thought and planning. The Conservancy has guidelines for preserving the historical elements of the park and rigorous operational requirements for serving its visitors and managing its animal population. 

The Conservancy identified several requirements for the new waste and recycling system, including reducing the number of compacting trucks in the park and making hand collection easier and more efficient for Conservancy staff. With these goals in mind, Landor recommended creating a suite of three receptacles: one for waste, one for bottle and can recycling, and one for paper product recycling. 

Designs for the trio of receptacles were inspired by the architectural vernacular of the park. Devised specifically to meet the Conservancy’s sorting and collection requirements, the receptacle solution uses visual cues to encourage park visitors to sort their trash more effectively. The tilt of the vertical containers, the spiral gesture of the lid, and the placement and orientation of the typography are all designed to draw the eye to the top of the receptacle. Each bin has a different-sized aperture to make self-sorting even more intuitive; for example, a narrower opening for cans and bottles. In addition, the receptacles are color coded to make sorting easier for patrons, and the new design makes for smoother handling by Conservancy staff.

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The Alcoa Technical Center (ATC) analyzed 3-D stereolithographic prints and full-scale 2-D plots of the initial designs to make material recommendations. Landor then constructed full-scale 3-D mock-ups, and used these prototypes to test the cans’ ergonomics and to refine the graphic design and finish treatments. Collaboration with the Conservancy's operations staff was essential to developing critical elements of the cans’ functional design.  

Sustainable design

The Landor team familiarized itself with numerous manufacturing methods to ensure that all steps of the receptacles’ creation were efficient and sustainable. During the design process, the team consulted regularly with the Alcoa Technical Center to gauge the feasibility of our concepts before beginning fabrication.

Designers worked with the ATC to test numerous aluminum alloys and manufacturing methods before choosing 6061-T6, a tempered, high-strength alloy used in aircraft manufacturing. A strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant material, 6061-T6 is made of 30 percent recycled content and is infinitely recyclable itself.

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The receptacles’ finish, developed by Landscape Forms of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was achieved using a proprietary, dry-application process that is more environmentally friendly than traditional wet-paint processes. This powder coating is recyclable and emits nearly zero volatile organic compounds, minimizing the environmental impact of the receptacles’ construction. Landor’s green design and fabrication strategy means that the receptacles are suitable for attaining the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification points on other landscape projects. 

Made in the U.S.A.

By selecting Landscape Forms as the fabricator for the new receptacles, Alcoa Inc. and Landor ensured that the new recycling system for Central Park was conceived, designed, engineered, and built by hand here in the United States. Landor’s team collaborated with Landscape Forms’ engineers on full-scale prototypes of each receptacle to work out final functional and manufacturing details. The partnership allowed for efficient, cost-effective, and timely prototyping and fabrication.

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The first new cans were unveiled in Central Park in May 2013, and full deployment of more than 700 cans began in September 2013. Park officials estimate that on the most popular days, up to 250,000 visitors will see and use the receptacles. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the Public Design Commission praised the cans, lauding the importance of good design in public works. The media latched onto the story; major publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran articles on the new receptacles, while park users tweeted, posted, and blogged about their thoughts on the new system. 

In June 2014, Landor was honored with a Product Design Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, but most important, year-over-year recycling is up 35 percent since the installation of the new cans. The Landor-designed Central Park Conservancy receptacles have become a beautiful yet functional part of the Central Park’s landscape and future.


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