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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Trash Cans at Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

According to legend, when Walt Disney was designing Disneyland, he went to several entertainment venues like Tivoli Gardens and Knott’s Berry Farm, and took extensive notes on the behavior of guests and the placement of items.

In the case of the placement of trash cans, Walt (says legend) observed how long a person might carry a piece of trash before finally discarding it on the ground and made sure that Disneyland’s trash cans were spaced less than that distance. Supposedly, that distance was roughly thirty feet.

Another innovation was making sure the cans all had lids and hinged flaps so that the trash would not overflow or distract with an unpleasant smell or the sight of garbage.

Themed Trash Can at Disney World

(c) Disney

In addition, in order to maintain the consistency of each land of the park, the trash cans were also themed to that particular area. That attention to detail included everything from logos to decorative borders to images. New designs are always being introduced.

While the trash cans in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge reflect the starkness of the environment, the actual trash compactor number on the Death Star in the original movie is worked into the receptacle’s design.

Recently, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Restaurantosaurus, Disney introduced three trash cans next to each other: a regular trash can, a composting trash can, and a recycling can.

A clever example of re-using existing assets to save money for the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground when it first opened in 1971 was demonstrated by installing trash cans designed to look like tree stumps that had previously been used at the Indian Village area at Disneyland that had just closed.

The designs of the trash cans have become so iconic that Disney has even merchandised salt shakers, a pin set and Christmas ornaments and more with these designs.

While working at WDW in 2005, I got to talk to Wayne Culver, who opened the WDW Custodial Department in when the Magic Kingdom debuted in 1971.

He told me, “The general guideline for parks, streets and pathways is approximately one trash can every 100 feet. This is highly variable and subject to conditions. For example, some areas of the Epcot promenade, the spacing is farther apart; however, as you approach vendor carts, outdoor Food and Beverage areas and more crowded zones, the spacing is denser.

“For quick-service food locations, the standard is roughly one can for every 40 tables. The standard has changed very little since opening in 1971.

“When Walt Disney Imagineering designs our parks, they always consult with Custodial and Operations experts before drawing the cans on the park layout drawings. The drawings are used to initially place the cans and reflect the spacing guidelines I’ve mentioned. However, Custodial and Operation have full latitude to move cans according to operational needs.”

PUSH, the robot-controlled talking trash can, was created by Daniel Deutsch, and entertained guests at Walt Disney World from February 1995-February 2014. He is still active at Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure Park,Tokyo Disneyland (speaking Japanese and English), Disneyland Paris (French and English) and Hong Kong Disneyland (English, Cantonese and Mandarin).

Over the years, Push has assisted in several marriage proposals, danced with Michael Jackson (who offered to buy him), and even unofficially ran for mayor of Tomorrowland. His recycling cousin known as Pipa (Swahili for “trash can”) first appeared in 1999 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt Volume 9: Halloween Edition, and Hidden Treasures of the Disney Cruise Line.


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