Waste Not

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by Alissa Walker

Could a locally made garbage can help bring American manufacturing back from the brink?

The Dustbin, a folded-metal trash can by the Los Angeles designer Brendan Ravenhill, manufactured within 15 miles of his studio

In a factory just east of downtown Los Angeles, hundreds of metal boxes are floating through the air as if in a carefully choreographed dance number. Endless sheets of steel are folded, stamped, and spot-welded into industrial origami, then stacked into temporary metal skyscrapers. The cubes spin slowly as they hang suspended from a conveyor belt, swinging forward in a rhythm until they slip behind a wall, the once-silver boxes emerging on the other side a brilliant powder-coated white.

Since 1946 this has been the scene at Angell & Giroux, a metal fabricator in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood. Founded during the postwar manufacturing boom, the company started out making ammunition boxes for the U.S. military. Today it’s the only domestic producer of metal first-aid cabinets. When you see a first-aid kit affixed to the wall somewhere across the country, chances are Angell & Giroux made it.

But recently, the fabricator has seen some very different products coming out from behind its powder-coating curtain. On a pallet near the entrance to the factory is the Dustbin, an elegant trash can conceived by a local industrial designer named Brendan Ravenhill. A dustpan is cleverly incorporated as the trash can’s counterbalanced swinging lid. Working with Gordon Brush, a local company that also makes brushes for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (which is located north, in the San Gabriel Valley), Ravenhill designed a brush with inset magnets that affix it to the Dustbin, keeping all the tools for clean-up at the ready. It’s a clever, high-quality trash can that could last you the rest of your refuse-collecting life. And it’s completely designed and manufactured in Los Angeles.

To read the rest of this article, purchase the August 2012 issue of Print, or download a PDF version.

August 2012 issue of Print