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  • 04.07.14

23 Clever Urban Hacks Made From Trash On New York City Streets

Fire hydrants, parking signs, street lights, and other pieces of urban infrastructure can also make city life a little better and more whimsical, with just a few simple twists.

Over the last three years, an anonymous artist has wandered around the streets of New York finding random pieces of trash and turning them into something useful. A scrap of wood, tucked into the curve of a U-shaped bike rack, became a temporary folding chair. Bottle holders from abandoned bikes, attached to the sides of a trashcan, transformed into mini-recycling bins. An old ball tied to a signpost became a game. In total, the artist has created 23 of these interventions so far in a project called Rotten Apple.

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“I was walking around and seeing people really checked out in the city on their commutes, and this was a way to activate those spaces and have them engaged a little more,” the artist told Co.Exist. “I was also thinking about the amount of waste that’s everywhere in the city–I feel like it’s a free-for-all of materials. I like the idea of using trash to highlight waste and consumption issues.”


Some of the ideas are playful, like a magnetic poetry set used to spell out the lyrics to “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” on a subway sign, or a set of drumsticks attached to a fence so someone can strum the fence posts as they walk along. But most are very practical, and the artist says they’re all meant to be useful–pointing out ways that we could better use space in cities, like adding extra bike racks to vertical space on street posts.


“They’re provocations, addressing the latency in the urban environment,” he says. “They’re meant to draw attention to it, so we can be a little smarter about how we plan the day-to-day in our communities.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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