How to select suitable recycling bins for offices

Choosing the right bins is critical and can make the difference between a successful and a disastrous recycling program. Follow our recommendation to select the most suitable bin for your company.

First, in this article, we assume that you intend to select bins for a centralised bin station. As a reminder, check our article Why you should move to a centralised bin system?

Understand the users of a waste station

Remember that there are two users: the consumer and the cleaner.

  • The consumer looks for clarity, convenience, and cleanliness.
  • The cleaner looks for comfort and ease in emptying the bin and replacing the trash bags while minimising the risk of having to clean it because of spills.

Ideally, you want to find a bin that meets all the requirements of both parties.

Standardisation – the same bin everywhere

Once you have chosen your design, make sure that the same bins are used throughout the facility.

Design – simple and elegant

A beautiful design inspires people to make good use of something. This does apply to bins. We recommend a simple but elegant design. We do not recommend choosing bins that look like artwork and harder for people to recognize and use.

Singapore Changi Airport has been awarded for developing a creative recycling bin system. As can be seen below, in a single terminal, we have been able to identify three different types of designs of recycling and general waste bins. We do recognise it is a very interesting way of challenging people in their knowledge and interest in recycling. However, in our opinion, this is not the best way of driving efficiency in waste collection.

Recycling bins in Changi Airport #1 - picture taken on 12th October 2019
Figure 1 - Recycling bins in Changi Airport #1 - picture taken on 12th October 2019
Recycling bins in Changi Airport #2 - picture taken on 12th October 2019
Figure 2 - Recycling bins in Changi Airport #2 - picture taken on 12th October 2019
Recycling bins in Changi Airport #3 - picture taken on 12th October 2019
Figure 3 - Recycling bins in Changi Airport #3 - picture taken on 12th October 2019

Design – see-through panel

You can choose to have a bin with a see-through panel to show what it contains.

Advantage:

  • Makes waste management more transparent
  • Makes people more likely to react if they see someone putting a recyclable in the wrong bin.
  • Can facilitate a sense of community which will drive better recycling practices.

Disadvantage:

  • If people do not follow correct recycling instructions, it will affect the aesthetic of recycling waste station. In return, people will less likely to recycle right.

Make sure you use transparent plastic bags.

Design – made for cleaners

Make sure you select a bin which is easier for cleaners to use. This can include:

  • Ability to open and close the bin without difficult manipulations (avoid bins with a hidden switch or lock),
  • Simple replacement of the garbage bag,
  • Lightweight to facilitate cleaning if required,
  • Most of the manipulations can be done while standing up to reduce fatigue for the cleaner.

Colours

Where available, select a bin that follows a local standardized colour scheme.

For instance, in Singapore, co-mingled recycling bins are blue.

Signage

In a multicultural city like Singapore, do not assume that everybody will have the same understanding of a colour, a symbol, or a word. Therefore, you should make use of those three forms of visual communication at the same time (See Figure 4).

Instructions and clarification

Bin stations should be used as an educational tool. It is recommended to have a signage or a board beside or above the bin. This sign can give instructions and state common do’s and don’ts.

How the “perfect bin” can look like?

Among all the bins we have seen, here are two designs that do fit the requirements of the “ideal” recycling bins as listed below:

  • Clear signage with colour codes, symbols, and words
  • Board showing what’s recyclable or not
  • A reminder that recyclables should be clean and dry
  • Opening so people can see the recyclables that individuals have thrown away
  • Indication of the phone number of a person in charge
Mixed-recycling bin in an office tower in Singapore (left) and waste station in Australia (right)
Figure 4 - Mixed-recycling bin in an office tower in Singapore (left) and waste station in Australia (right)

The bin on the left side is a custom-built bin designed and manufactured by Peter’s Environmental, a company based in Singapore.

The bin on the right side is a waste station designed and manufactured by Method Recycling, a company based in the UK and Australia.

 Soon, we will publish a post on the sizing of waste stations for an open office. Stay tuned.

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About Zero Waste City

Zero Waste City is a consulting business specialised in waste reduction for commercial and industrial facilities. We help companies to save money by reducing waste and to achieve Zero Waste goals. Our services include:

Our services include:

  • Waste audit (quantifying waste streams and identifying immediate cost saving opportunities)
  • Compliance with regulations such as:
    • Mandatory Packaging Reporting
    • Mandatory Waste Reporting
    • Mandatory Food Waste Segregation
  • Project implementation and on-going support
  • Measurement and Verification of savings
  • Guidance to achieve Zero Waste goals and certifications.