These Glowing Tubes Turn Trash Collection Into A Competitive Data Viz Game

Wecup, an installation for festivals and open-air events, lets you vote with your plastic beer cup, turning trash collection into a game.

One of the most annoying (and disgusting) aspects of organizing a music festival is dealing with the mounds of trash left on the ground afterwards. By turning the process of throwing away trash into a competitive game, a new social design project called Wecup may well be the best way to get thousands of drunk people to stop littering so much.


Wecup–created by Rotterdam-based designers Studio Squash, Giacomo Boffo, Alessandro Carosso, and Oana Clitan–is an analog data viz art installation first presented at the three-day de Wereld van Het Witte de Withkwartier festival in Rotterdam, where 30,000 people were sold beverages out of plastic cups.

The installation labels pairs of glowing plexiglass tubes cans with conflicting statements (i.e., “Bring back Elvis” vs. “Bring back Michael” ‘Rotterdam forever” vs. “New York forever”), which then function as a polling system: festivalgoers vote for one of the two statements by throwing a plastic cup into the corresponding tube. As the cup-votes pile up, the tubes turn into 3-D bar graphs, and make it way easier to recycle the festival’s waste.

“We were interested in whether design could influence people to deal with their waste differently,” one of Wecup’s designers, Oana Clitan writes in an email. “We offered users a playful way to express their opinions while using the plastic waste as a means of this expression about different issues related to their city, culture, and society.”

In some cases, people at the festival got so competitive about seeing their side win that they not only didn’t need to be nagged to clean up trash, they did it almost passionately: “’Bring back Michael’ vs ‘Bring back Elvis’ was a very tight competition,” Clitan says. In order to see their preference win, people were running around collecting plastic cups from the ground and putting them in the tubes. “In the end both tubes were completely filled,” she says. “We even couldn’t tell who was the winner.”

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.