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6 Garbage Facts about Disney Theme Parks

No one ever wants to talk about garbage. It’s the stuff that you throw out of your house.  Couples argue over which one is responsible for disposing of it. All sorts of ‘taking out the trash’ phrases exist because people hate it so much and don’t want to think about it.

I’m going to challenge that perception today, though. I’m going to talk about the amazing ways that Disney park planners keep Magic Kingdom clean. Here are several garbage facts about Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney cared about garbage

Image: DisneyBack in the days before big data, Walt Disney embarked on something that no one had ever tried before. He built the world’s first theme park, a place where families could spend their days in a comfortable, safe environment. He faced myriad problems in breathing life into the Happiest Place on Earth, though.

One of Uncle Walt’s primary concerns was the garbage. This isn’t a joke, and I’m about to tell you something that will blow your mind. As you know, Disney treasured his time with daughters, and one of his favorite family outings was a trip to the park. It sounds delightful, right?

Alas, these trips occurred during the 1940s and early 1950s, back before hygiene was an ongoing concern of the public. The municipal parks of the era were nasty, which was cause for alarm for caring parents like Walt Disney.

Walt Disney’s invention is part of your everyday life

Image: DisneyAs he planned Disneyland, Uncle Walt examined the trash cans of the era. They were mesh cans that had a couple of major design flaws. The first was that a can with holes in it allowed goop to seep out. Yes, gross. The second is arguably worse. A can with holes in it doesn’t block the smell; instead, it filters that nasty scene. Trash cans of the era wafted affronts to the nose as an intrinsic part of the design.

Disney had a grand idea. He developed a new style of trash can, a rectangular one with some clever additions. It had a lid and two adjoining flaps on top. The flaps locked the trash into place AND prevented the smell from escaping.

Also, you’ve seen this design many times because it’s become the basis for modern trash can receptacles. Disneyland was the first place to host them. Amusingly, Disney allegedly presented his idea to trash can manufacturers of the time and was rejected. Yes, Walt Disney apparently revolutionized the trash can, but some shortsighted trashcan executive turn down a deal with him. For this reason, Disney never patented his idea.

Walt Disney counted steps

One of the most famous aspects of Disney theme park trash cans is their precise distance. Park officials ensure that each garbage receptacle is 30 feet apart. That seems like a random number, it’s another integral part of the Walt Disney mythology.

During the early days of Disneyland, its creator was passionate about keeping the park spotless. To streamline the cleaning process, he examined user behavior. Through his own tests and the observations of others, he noticed that guests would carry their own garbage for up to 30 feet. After that, they’d throw their trash on the ground, figuring that some cast member would pick it up.

Yes, Walt Disney World keeps trash cans within a set range of 30 feet due to anecdotal research done by their founder during the mid-1950s. When Walt Disney World opened, loyal cast members honored the belief of their deceased boss. Even after decades of trying to improve clean-up, this philosophy has remained in place as it seems like the best guesstimate ever of consumer trash behavior.

Walt Disney World is full of tubes

No part of the construction of Walt Disney World has created as many conspiracy theories as the Utilidors. Because cast members are so loyal in protecting the secrets of this underground dwelling, few pictures and videos are available. Also, it’s not truly underground but rather on the first floor. Magic Kingdom is actually on the second floor by design.

The ground floor is where Disney hides all of its secrets and, yes, garbage is one of them. Should you ever walk through the Utilidors, something only possible via Disney guided tour, you’d see giant tubes above your head. They look like standard pipes, only they have a different purpose.

Disney uses this tubing as part of an intricate trash service, one that’s only duplicated at one other place in the United States. Called the Automated Vacuum Assisted Collection (AVAC), it seemed like the trash disposal system in the future during the late 1960s. Several European urban developers embraced the premise, but only two American locations were similarly daring. One is at Roosevelt Island, New York, while Magic Kingdom hosts the other.

Magic Kingdom has the fastest trash in North America!

Image: DisneyAVAC is a premise that’s easy to conceptualize. Have you ever seen pneumatic tubes? Banks have used them for decades as a way to transfer the items you place in a canister to the teller inside the building. It’s also a reliable way of transferring interoffice mail from a central location. People deposit the mail in a canister, and it reaches a mail room. There, it’s identified and sent along to its ultimate destination.

Believe it or not, AVAC works the same way with garbage. The trash that you dump in the receptacles winds up in these tubes. They’re approximately 20 inches in diameter, and the connecting garbage portals are interspersed throughout the park.

The underlying system is a marvel of engineering. Your garbage travels faster than any ride at Magic Kingdom, no joke. Inside the Utilidor pipes, it speeds along at 60 miles per hour thanks to the scientific magic of compressed air. Every time you throw something in the trash at this park, it winds up behind Splash Mountain, the central location for all Magic Kingdom garbage.

Walt Disney World’s always trying to improve garbage collection

Did you hear about the Custodial of Tomorrow program? Disney executives are still trying to master garbage dispensation more than 60 years after their founder’s original research. Under the pilot program, Disney requires 40 cast members to hold iPhones as they walk around the parks.

These devices text the employees when trash receptacles are overfull or bathrooms are dirty. To maximize efficiency, the new system applies GPS. The closest cast member to the clean-up area gets the signal.

In discussing the innovation, Disney proudly declared that “This new approach will enable us to deploy Cast Members in real time, to areas that need service, ultimately making the Cast and Guest experiences even better.” However, some park employees weren’t as enthusiastic about it. Walt Disney World janitors protested the practice through their local union, Unite Here Local 362. They lamented that the GPS created privacy concerns and also worried that seniority means nothing in this system.

Clearly, Disney’s still pushing boundaries in the field of trash disposal. The latest initiative may have proven divisive, but it’s the latest example that Disney won’t rest until they’ve created the healthiest environment possible for theme park tourists. They’re even prioritizing environmentally friendly practices. Disneyland has recently become more efficient with its water and recycling systems.

You may not think about the garbage when you’re at Walt Disney World, but park planners are absolutely obsessed with it.