02 October 2014

Return of the Test Tubes

I experienced something yesterday that can best be described as joy of recognition, attending the opening of Reprogramming The City, an exhibition in the Danish Centre of Architecture. It is curated by urban strategist Scott Burnham, with whom I apparently share my view of the urban space, and its endless possibilities. A quote from the catalogue boils it all down:

"We have the ability to solve some of the most pressing urban problems by using what we already have in new ways" 

Longtime readers will know where I am going with this...


From a decade of running my own accessories business with limited resources, I had this down to a fine art: Work to the greatest extent with what you already have, and adapt it to fit the market. Moving from fashion accessories to urban solutions was not a big leap. My cup stacking Test Tubes were just that: accessories for the urban space.

The problem:

Cup litter

The solution:

Pictogram Test Tube

The Test Tube, offering people an opportunity to prove to the city that cup litter is not a case of laziness or ill will, but a last resort. (How I miss the poster free trash can, ugh!)

It all began with a humble set of painted cardboard postal tubes, mounted on a couple of trash cans on Queen Louises Bridge. Ignored by the city, but embraced by the internet to the extent that the city was forced to give them a try (thank you, internet). Enter the aluminum prototype.

After a trial period, the cleaning department shut down the tubes, by reason of denial: Copen-we-don’t-have-a-cup-litter-problem-hagen. But as we all know denying a problem is there, doesn't make it go away. Nor will the solution: two years after the first cardboard edition hit the bridge, the aluminum prototype have made it to the Danish Centre of Architecture, where it will be on display for the next three months. Ha!

Once the dust settles, I will return to the exhibition, and give you a full report. There are so many great ideas for the urban space out there, and so many untapped resources. I can't get over what a privilege it is to be included in this show, and had to ask the curator, how he came across the Test Tubes, all the way from Boston? Oh, said my newfound urban hero: I follow your blog.

Reprogramming The City on DAC  Oct 1 2014 - Jan 4 2015


  1. det er jo SÅ for fedt, men også ret tragisk og så igen: hele "det moderne dk" i en nøddeskal: vi er så stolte af at være verdenskendte for design og nytænkning, vi bruger det bare ikke selv...
    kh Muttilove

    1. Hahaha, du har jo ret! Resten af verden har været begejstret, og brugerne med, men mellemleddet er forstoppet. Host, host.

  2. Congratulations, Sandra!

    You have every right to be proud!

    And I know that people read your blog from all over the world.

    1. Thank you, NHcycler. : )

      Hearing from readers, and meeting some of you in the real world, is a big part of what makes it worth it, to me.

  3. Congratulations! It's right you should be recognised for such a brilliant solution. Let's hope it leads on to bigger things, for you and for other cities!

    1. Thank you Jane, the idea travels well, and is easy to implement. Cup litter is usually confined to certain areas, a stacking tool is just an obvious solution.

  4. Fantastic! This just goes to show how closed minded/short sighted the Copenhagen bureaucrats are!!! xox

    1. Ha! It really is strange how it all stops there. Everyone else embraced the tubes, but the cleaning department simply refuse to deal with the problem in an intelligent way. The bridge is mostly cup litter free now because they have dispatched a small army to pick it up individually, and empty the trash cans non stop. Such a waste of resources.

      In other areas the cups are still overflowing, of course. No one can be everywhere all the time.


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