Samui Wining & Dining
 Art Bins Samui is helping keep Samui’s environment clean.

Art Bins Samui is helping keep Samui’s environment clean.


Beaches everywhere are under threat from garbage – Samui, alas, is no exception. Back-breaking rubbish collection by exhausted resort workers and volunteers is the most practical solution, but these days art is pitching in to help. Thanks to Art Bins Samui (formerly known as Samui Trash Bins) and a community of painters, quirky trash bins are popping up on our shores. People want to feed said bins – with garbage. Every bit helps, literally.          

The idea of turning trash bins into art was conceived by Idania Reiss, a resident who’s been living on Samui for a decade now. When she was walking along the beach one day she realized that there was nowhere to put garbage. If there were trash bins, people would use them. But who would want to see big plastic bins gracing the shores? It would be way too ugly. Her solution was to paint the bins so that they fitted in with their surroundings and looked appealing. That way people would want to throw trash in them. The whole thing would be fun.


And that’s pretty much how it’s turned out. Idania, who already knew a lot about art, realized that painting a trash bin isn’t as simple as people might think. It’s a total labour of love. The main problem was durability. Almost anything painted and left out in the sun loses its colour. A series of bins with art reduced to faint traces would just look, well, sad. The only way forward was to prime the bins in such a way that the colours would last, even on Samui’s incandescent shores. She found out exactly what was needed and honed down a recipe for durability, beauty and practicality.



How does it all come together? Idania says that it all starts when she buys the bins which are a bright navy blue and are made of recycled plastic. They’re too smooth to absorb paint so need to be first roughened. Four coats of primer go on, followed by a couple of coats of turquoise paint. Art Bins Samui is helping keep Samui’s environment clean.This process takes well over a day. Idania says she chose turquoise as it’s very much the colour of the sea.


She then decides on the design. She’s got plenty of good ideas, and the results range across a panoply of people and animals and perhaps some topographical features. People regularly request bins and even have very precise designs in mind. Currently she’s producing one that’s black and white. Another is for a resort’s small farm. Goats replace the aquatic life usually depicted on the bins, and instead of the sea there’s a countryside theme. No matter what’s called for, she traces outlines onto the bins but leaves them at that.


Other volunteers complete the actual painting, adding colour to the tracings. Four coats of clear spray are then applied, and finally the bin is ready to do duty as an artistic sentinel on the beach. It requires no maintenance apart from cleaning. All that the person who is in charge of the bin has to do is line it with a black plastic bag and then empty it as it gets full.


Volunteers meet for painting sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. Other times are by appointment. Everybody is welcome; holidaymakers and islanders alike. Idania stresses that you don’t need to have any prior experience of either drawing or painting. But her guests tend to be surprised by the professional results they get. It’s a long day, but it’s fun, and Idania also provides a vegan lunch.


The colourful trash bins have attracted notice from many different areas. Hotels, cafés and restaurants regularly ask about them, and as you go around Samui you’ll notice that quite a few already have their own trash bins. Look out for them in the future as there are more and more being placed. An app is planned whereby you will be able to go on an artistic trail of the bins and get a percentage off a drink, say, or some food at participating venues.


This is art in an environmentally and socially conscious form. The bins are heavy-duty, easy to clean but best of all they’re bright, eye-catching and if you have litter or trash, you’ll want to put it in. It’d be a shame not to – this is art with a function and helps keep Samui’s beaches clean.


Meanwhile, it’s still necessary for everyone to pick up garbage on the beach – a never-ending task, and teams of volunteers are, as always, required.


Dimitri Waring


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