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There's an office building with regular water flush toilets. There's a trash bin next to each toilet seat so that if users have any garbage they would not flush it into the toilet because the toilet and sewer pipes it's connected to might get clogged.

Then there's toilet paper which is carefully selected such that it disintegrates quickly when it gets into water and so it can be safely flushed into a toilet and not clog it. This has been tested and it's okay. The building owner is okay with this and the city utility company was also contacted and it's okay with this arrangement, their sewage processing equipment deals with proper toilet paper just fine.

Then there're signs saying something like Folks, it's okay to flush toilet paper into the toilet. Please drop all other trash into the bin (in a language other than English, so no chance to have an exact quote).

And of course there're users. Some of then flush the paper into the toilet and others throw it into the bins. Bins get full rather quickly. This requires the person cleaning the toilet floor to also empty the bins several times per day and move the dirty paper together with other trash. That's extra work and extra garbage and a person moving dirty toilet paper around the office every day.

Removing the bins is out of the question because users will definitely throw trash into toilets. What's needed is to keep the bins and also prevent users from throwing toilet paper into the bins.

Is any redesign of trash bins possible to address the problem?

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    Is it an issue that toilets in whatever area this is happening in can not handle toilet paper? Or are there a lot of users who are not familiar with the concept of flushing tp? I'm thinking this is a question of education and am not sure this can be completely solved via redesign. (or your kitchen bins might get stuffed with dirty tp) – AsheraH Dec 27 '19 at 12:28
  • @AsheraH Many public buildings in the area happen to use unsuitable paper which indeed causes clogging. – sharptooth Dec 27 '19 at 12:30
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    I'm curious where this issue is occurring (city/country)? I find the idea that there is some toilet paper that is not suitable for flushing to be very odd (I've never heard of this in my 40+ years). As this appears to be the case though, each stall needs to have explicit signage (in all languages required) indicating that the toilet paper is to be flushed, and sanitary napkins/garbage is the only thing to be put in the bin. If this is a new-ish concept in this area, this will likely take months/years to become the norm (and not need the signage) – scunliffe Jan 2 at 4:30
  • That's somewhere in Very Eastern Europe. Toilet paper comes in a variety of implementations. Some paper tears apart when you use it, other clogs sewer pipes, however it's not a problem to find acceptable paper if you're not trying to just buy the cheapest possible paper. – sharptooth Jan 13 at 14:46
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This is an interesting problem, firstly I'm assuming there is some cultural / regional norm to consider? For example in the UK it would be fairly unusual to try to flush general trash. Although you're right that there are certainly people who do this, baby wipes / sanitary products etc.

As with a lot of design this seems like an "it depends" type of answer, and from a UX perspective you'd want to test your options and weigh up the opportunity cost of different solutions. For example, if you move the bins out of the cubicles / away from the toilets, how many people flush trash, how often do the toilets clog, and how much does this cost to resolve, vs the alternative, additional cost of cleaning the bins more regularly and the unpleasantness of having to extract used toilet paper as part of that process.

Aside from testing, in the UK it's common to have bins for things which don't flush like disposable nappies and sanitary products. These sometimes but not always have signs, which often say something like "sanitary products only". People generally understand what they are for as they are typically situated in unisex or female toilets or those with baby changing facilities (I have no information on whether toilet paper goes in them).

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Another option which I've seen is to put explicit instructions on the toilet forbidding people to place items other than toilet paper in them. This is the type of sign I've seen:

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This is predicated on people in general understanding that toilet paper goes into toilets but other things don't.

The simplest solution I would suggest is adding signs to the toilets as above and moving the bins away so they are not in arms reach, having to get up and move from the toilet to dispose of the paper is likely to discourage people. Also, when I say "signs to the toilets" you could consider the location of such signs, on the toilet is great if you're looking at it, but if you don't see that and you're using the toilet it becomes invisible. Consider putting signs in a location people can see them whilst they are sitting, perhaps on the backs of the doors if the toilets have cubicle doors.

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I would prepare the use case and key activity. From there more questions will arise and help you weigh in your available options and rest with a solution.

Bin

a. what kind of trash would people throw into the bin besides tissue?

  • example: observation and survey leads to used make up

b. what key activities related to (a)

  • example: putting on make up / realising the make up is expired / found empty container in handbag

c. where the key activity (b) happen most

  • example: observation and survey shows it is at the sink outside the toilet stall

Then the location of the bin is more appropriate elsewhere than its actual position.

I believe your findings at (a) will be a great help for you.

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In ladies' rooms, the bins are often in the stall, but a bit aways away from the toilet. The lady often has to stand (or move toward the door) to place the item in the receptacle. That might be enough to break a habit.

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