– Mark E. Smith

The City of Toronto has finished a three-month test of monster billboards disguised as garbage cans. The company pushing these abominations, a foreign national named Eumex (through its local subsidiary Eucan), would have us believe that giant illuminated billboards facing the sidewalk, with puny receptacles on the short ends (one of them right at the edge of the sidewalk), are actually functional garbage cans and a pleasant addition to Toronto’s public space.

They aren’t. That’s my opinion and it’s the opinion of a lot of people. The city conducted an online survey (still up if you want to play with it) and did separate telephone and on-street polling. The streeters were limited to people who had actually used the megabins; the other methods surveyed people who had and had not used them. (The test is completed, but the bins are still standing.)

I filed an access-to-information request and I have all the results. I will be publishing selected excerpts, in standards-compliant format, as soon as I can get Excel to stop crashing on me. This may take a little while.

I have produced some preliminary figures. I looked solely at clear yes/no answers to the questions “Have you used the megabins?” and “Do you approve of them?” (both questions paraphrased from the original, but the sense is unchanged). All other answers were ignored. Margins of error in the original samples were not listed, but sample sizes were 2,392 for online, 1,743 for telephone, and 203 for streeter.

Megabin suvey results

I have used the bins and I approve of them
  • Online respondents: 211/2,392 or 8.8%
  • Telephone respondents: 1,318/1,743 or 75.6%
  • Streeters: 165/203 or 81.3%
I have used the bins and I do not approve of them

Many of these respondents will be Spacers or their fans, but that number is unquantifiable.

  • Online respondents: 1,437/2,392 or 60.1%
  • Telephone respondents: 198/1,743 or 11.4%
  • Streeters: 26/203 or 12.8%
I haven’t used the bins and I approve of them

This is the most dubious data set at all. I assume, but cannot prove, that a significant number of the online respondents are Eucan operatives. (I can’t prove it because the data do not include IP addresses of respondents, some of which could theoretically be traced back to Eucan or Eumex domainspace.)

  • Online respondents: 67/2,392 or 2.8%
  • Telephone respondents: 15/1,743 or 0.9%
  • (Streeters: Not applicable)
I haven’t used the bins and I do not approve of them

For online respondents, this is the category in which Spacers and their fans presumably stuffed the ballot box. However, as with Eucan’s presumed similar actions, those numbers are unquantifiable.

  • Online respondents: 529/2,392 or 22.1%
  • Telephone respondents: 168/1,743 or 9.6%
  • (Streeters: Not applicable)


  1. Online respondents tend to hate the megabins if they’ve used them (60%).
  2. Telephone respondents tend to like the bins if they’ve used them (75%)
  3. Streeters, all of whom have used the bins, tend to like them (81%).

Since the category of megabin users has a diverse response, with a majority of one group hating them and majorities of two other groups liking them, my conclusion is not that the megabins are clearly despised by respondents; the data do not support that conclusion. Nonetheless, I do conclude that response is too mixed to roll out the megabins. Too many people hate them for the city to consider the pilot project a success. Even more people will hate them when they are installed everywhere, blocking sightlines and failing at the elementary task of garbage collection on every main street.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.01.13 15:45. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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