Swiss bombproof bin tackles Paris trash

The new bin has been rigorously tested. Brüco SA/

A small Zurich-based firm has developed a rubbish bin that considerably reduces the effects of an explosion.

This content was published on May 25, 2006 minutes

Paris – which has banned rubbish bins from many districts for fear of terrorist attack – has shown interest.

In some European cities, finding a rubbish bin is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In some tourist areas of Paris, such as the Champs-Elysées, rubbish bins are simply non-existent.

The problem is not the inefficiency of the local authorities, but a fear of terrorist attack. There is nothing simpler, for a terrorist, than to hide an explosive device in a rubbish bin.

But Zurich-based Brüco may have found the solution: the company has invented a bombproof rubbish bin – the "Trashshark", so called because its design is suggestive of a shark's head.

The new design has already passed its first test. An explosives expert at armasuisse – the Swiss army agency which purchases and assesses military equipment – set off a hand-grenade inside one of the rubbish bins. As expected, the bin split in two, but it was effective in absorbing almost all 1,700 fragments of the hand-grenade.

"We cannot guarantee that, in the event of an explosion, no one will be injured. But this design can undoubtedly help to save lives," said the company's managing director, Marcel Strebel.

Constructed of five-millimetre stainless steel plating, the bin is designed to direct the blast upwards, thereby limiting the effects of the explosion. It can additionally be fitted with ultra-tough transparent polycarbonate "windows", so that the contents can be seen.

Paris prototypes

The Parisian authorities have already shown interest in the new development, and have ordered three prototypes which they intend to subject to further tests, so that "the design can receive official approval in France", explained Strebel.

If the trials are positive, Strebel expects to be able to sell an initial consignment of 60 or so bins, to be located in the Champs-Elysées area. The product is also of potential interest to many other cities with a high risk of terrorist activity.

" I am thinking, for example, of London, Rome or Madrid," said the Brüco manager.

At Brüco, their hopes are high: there are as yet no other firms producing bombproof bins. Strebel doesn't want to predict sales figures but he is confident that, if this model is successful, it will mean a big increase in the company's turnover.

The firm is already geared up for mass production, largely because this is not its first venture into the rubbish bin market. Brüco has in fact been manufacturing the Trashshark since 2002 and it is already a familiar item lining the streets of many European cities.

Success story

In 2002, Brüco's rubbish bin beat off competition from 80 other companies to win an international competition organised by the city of Zurich.

"We are now producing around 5,000 of these bins a year," said Strebel.

The success of this rubbish bin – now manufactured in various sizes and with many optional features – can be ascribed primarily to its design. This year, for example, the Trashshark won the Reddot Design Award, an international prize for industrial product design.

In addition, the bin is vandal-proof and has proved to be both durable and functional. These points have won over many customers, who, rather than trying to cut costs, have gone for durability.

According to Strebel, the high costs of production in Switzerland – especially the cost of labour – are no obstacle.

"For a high-quality product, this is not a major consideration. Staffing costs are not so important a factor, when you consider the high level to which our employees are trained and their awareness of the importance of quality," Strebel said.

swissinfo, Daniele Mariani

Key facts

Brüco, of Rümlang in canton Zurich, has around 50 employees.
Each year they produce approximately 5,000 rubbish bins.
A standard model with no optional extras and a capacity of 150 litres costs around SFr1,500 ($1,240).
The new bombproof model costs 33-56% extra.
The firm manufactures a number of other products, including server cabinets and metal items.

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In brief

The Trashshark – now produced in a bombproof version – is part of a long Swiss tradition of high-quality design.

As early as 1918, the federal government instituted a prize for the best product of the year.

Among Swiss products best known for their design features are Toblerone chocolate, Le Corbusier's armchair, Caran d'Ache pencils, Sigg drinking bottles and the Swiss-army knife.

In 2004, the Trashshark, conceived by the Zemp+Partner studio and manufactured by Brüco SA, won the Creativity Award, the Swiss equivalent of an Oscar for industrial design.

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