In east Vancouver, a few clusters of advertisement-covered trash cans sit near the intersections of busy streets, and they might catch your eye for a moment because they tend to stick out.
That’s exactly the idea from James Chick, owner of a new Vancouver-based business, TrashCanAds, that partnered with the city of Vancouver to supply, maintain and service the ad-laden trash cans, which cost the city no money.
Darcy Hoffman of Vancouver noticed the new trash cans and sent a question to The Columbian as part of Clark Asks, where readers submit questions online and vote on what they want to see answered.
“What is up with those hideous new garbage cans all over Mill Plain near Chkalov?” asked Hoffman. “Advertising for advertising? Who authorized this bad idea?”
Chick partnered with the city of Vancouver and placed 30 trash cans in clusters around east Vancouver in October. Initially the ads on the cans solicited more advertisers — as Hoffman noted: “advertising for advertising.”
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More than 70 businesses responded, and within two months all the trash cans were booked and plastered with the ads, Chick said. As of late January, there’s a wait list for interested advertisers, he said.
All the locations of the cans are available on an online map at trashcanads.com.
“Anything that can benefit the city without dipping into the city’s finances is a good thing,” he said.
Chick and his wife patrol the cans and service them each week. They’ve collected about 1,500 pounds of trash in three months, and part of their duties includes cleaning up stray trash within about 30 feet of the cans, he said.
Chick moved from Portland to Vancouver about seven years ago and worked in video production, but it didn’t quite scratch his entrepreneurial itch.
He decided to pack up and live on the road with his wife and two kids for two years.
While traveling through El Paso, Texas, he noticed an abundance of trash cans around the city that featured advertisements. So he did some research and found that it’s been a long-running partnership between the city and a business, which benefits from the revenue while servicing the cans itself — a win-win. El Paso has about 3,000 advertisement trash cans and bus stop ads, Chick said.
“They have been doing this for decades,” he said.
About four months ago, Chick and his family settled again in Vancouver with the Trash Can Ads idea in mind. He approached the city with his plan, and it accepted a pilot phase of the program to see how it goes, Chick said. After six-month and a 12-month intervals, the city will review the program and decide to expand it, extend it or shut it down. Meanwhile, Chick is adjusting the cans’ locations to make sure there’s enough walkway on sidewalks for those in wheelchairs or scooters, he said.
“We’re continually working to get things perfect,” he said.
The contracts with advertisers vary. Some are month-to-month and others last about six months. Chick declined to state the price of the advertisements.
Chick said he wants to place more trash cans near highway onramps and offramps to service areas near where homeless people congregate, but he would need to partner with the state to place it on those spots.
“I would love to expand to places that really need it,” he said.