SORT Stations – Custom Displays

Our country has been struggling with a massive waste management problem. Americans throw away an estimated 200 million tons of garbage each year, and 21.5 million of that is food waste.  This is enough waste to fill up a baseball stadium top-to-bottom… twice – and too much of that is compostable or recyclable material.  People have a bad habit of just tossing all their garbage into the waste container without noticing the recycling container right next to them.  They don’t take the two seconds necessary to determine what of their waste should be composted, recycled, or worst case scenario – sent to the dump.

The City of Grand Rapids reached out to us throughwith a plan to educate the community and help eliminate this bad habit with some awesome, effective custom displays to be used at busy city events throughout downtown.


After some brief discovery with the city and the Image Shoppe, we went to work figuring out how to build a display that would clearly communicate differences in three types of waste:  Compost, recycling, and trash.

SketchUp is our tool of choice for quick three-dimensional mockups.  We started with a triangular design that would certainly offer a high level of structural rigidity, but decided that it might be bad to hide certain waste types at certain angles.  Each of the three separate types of waste should be visible at once in order to give the community the information they need to make the right choice.We then moved on to what would ultimately become the final form for the station – one that displays all three types of waste container side-by-side.

We needed to retain some sort of structural rigidity throughout the 8′ x 8′ graphic panels that make up the bulk of the display, so we decided to build triangular supports that would attach to the graphic panels as well as the base of the display.  Together with a material called Alumalite, the display would be rigid and durable enough to withstand the elements.

Building the Displays

The assembly was a two-person process that started with digitally printing and laminating the vector graphics supplied by The Image Shoppe.  We then mounted the graphics to both sides of the Alumalite as well as the outside faces of the triangular supports, and went to work assembling the pieces together with L-brackets and common hardware.

Being that these displays were going to be subjected to crowds, kids, and everything under the sun, we needed to make sure that they were safe. We applied vinyl edge capping to all exposed edges of the Alumalite panels and then siliconed it in place.

In the Wild

Grand Rapids hosts a variety of events year round that bring in tons of visitors. And that means tons of trash. Several areas including the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Calder Plaza and Rosa Parks Circle are among the most populated areas of the city during these events and are where you can find the S.O.R.T. stations out in the wild.

All together, we created and assembled six S.O.R.T. Stations that were first used around the city during ArtPrize Eight, but will continue to be used for all and any major events within the city. We would like to extend a huge thank you to the City of Grand Rapids, The Image Shoppe and ArtPrize for incorporating us in this project.

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