Maybe you have seen some of the older trash cans around the city and certainly in the upper Haight, with triangular pyramid shaped tops that act as a basket for bottles and cans.  Do you know this trash can design was made to encourage casual street recycling?  What is now being labeled a threat, scavenging CRV recycling from innocent trash bins, was once encouraged.  In fact, our city and many others, invested in these designs in the hopes that initially separating recyclables from trash using the pyramid system would deter a leftover mess and make it easier for those who picked-to continue picking.



Another strange new urban manifestation in the world of recycling is Recology’s lost income from recycling theft.  Did you know that most recycling collected “illegally” ends up in Recology’s hands?  They operate the biggest buyback center in the city, too.  Here at our recycling center, we often sell our goods to Recology after collecting at our site.  Additionally, if you look at the energy costs of curbside service, you will find the expense approximately four times more to pick up a can than to have it brought in to their facility.  Empirically, Recology would make more money if everyone brought their recycling to buyback centers rather than had it collected through curbside-which is more of a luxurious option.




Mitch Reed is an eco friendly trash can designer.  His Moss Beach company, Eco-Pop, has been widely recognized for their ingenuity in designing recycling receptacles that are practical and reflect a pop culture aesthetic.  In 1995, his pyramid top trash can was on fire.  Berkeley invested in hundreds and so did San Francisco.  The thinking at that time was a little different.  People collectively thought that they couldn’t and did not want to invest in stopping scavengers from picking cans and bottles.  They did want to stop the messiness that could surround it when the recycling was hard to get to.  Reed’s design seemed to answer the call-initiating a sorting process from the top making it easy to pick and easy to keep recycling from contaminating the trash.  See the article from Waste and Recycling News at the end of the blog for some perspective on how this issue was viewed back then.  And next time you head over the City Hall-pay attention to all the pyramid top bins that line Van Ness Street.  To learn more about Mitch Reed’s company go to:




  • May 29, 1995
  • By Clare Goldsberry

BERKELEY, CALIF. – When it comes to recycling, the city of Berkeley is using the power of the pyramid as a means to save money and deal with scavengers. The city has doubled its order to 240 units of an easily accesible recycling container, the Pyramid-Top. The containers, costing about $300 each, plus installation, perch on top of public trash receptacles and allow scavengers to take the recyclables-a compromise solution to a standing problem.

Using the units can save the city as much as $200,000 in annual collection costs, said Jim Liljenwall, Berkeley’s former recycling program manager and now a principal of Planetera, a recycling consulting and marketing firm in Santa Fe, N.M.

He estimated the savings based on the cost of a crew and equipment servicing the city’s recycling containers during a 40-hour work week. Berkeley has about 500 containers.

Pyramid-Tops, made from post-consumer recycled aluminum, are easy to recognize, helping passersby to remember to throw in only recyclables, while discarding their trash in the main receptacle below.

Furthermore, the recyclables are easily accessible, allowing scavengers to take the items to redeem on their own. Previous attempts to prevent scavenging by locking trash containers only resulted in the containers being destroyed and trash littering the streets.

“People go through trash cans and scatter litter, and we didn’t want that,” said Nancy Skinner, a former Berkeley City Council member now serving on the Alameda County recycling board. “And we didn’t want to have to use police resources to ensure that didn’t happen.”

Mitch Reid, owner of Pyramid-Top maker Eco-Pop Designs of San Francisco, has been active in recycling for 10 years, designing trash containers that promote recycling.

San Francisco now is testing the Pyramid-Top in its Mission District, Reid said.

Plans are under way to market and sell the Pyramid-Tops to other cities, especially in states with bottle bills, Liljenwall said. “There’s more incentive to take the recyclables and redeem them in places that have a bottle bill.”