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Best practices for recycling bins and labels


Collection bins and containers play a crucial role in your school's or office's overall recycling program. Using established and proven "best practices" for bins and labels will help increase participation, decrease contamination, and accelerate your education efforts!

Choose appropriate containers

  • The container size, shape, and lid are important.
  • On the lid, use holes for cans and bottles, slots for paper.
  • Separate extra liquid from beverage containers in the cafeteria by providing a separate container for liquids.
  • Use color coded containers (i.e. blue for recyclables, black for waste, and green for organics)
If paper and cans are collected together, use a round hole and a paper slot on the same lid -- like this "Saturn"-looking slot.
Provide a separate container for liquids in the cafeteria.

Use clear, simple labels and posters

  • Signs let people know what materials are expected in each collection container. Use them on every bin, including trash.
  • Use large fonts and keep text to a minimum.
  • Use images.
  • Place posters above the trash and recycling stations that are consistent with the labels.
These bins are color-coded, paired together and have clear signs. The same colors and signs are used throughout the school. These bins are color-coded and paired together. Since these types of bins can be purchased as a set, they may simplify your program set-up.

Options for bin labels and posters

  • Download standardized recycling labels from the Recycling Association of Minnesota.
  • Contact your local county solid waste office to inquire about labels specific to your county. Hennepin County has some good examples.
  • Contact your hauler. They may have signs, or be willing to help you purchase some.
  • Have students make posters to post above bins in key locations. Be sure the posters are consistent with the labels on each bin.
  • Clip art for labels can be downloaded from our Media Toolkit page.

Make it convenient

  • Always pair the trash and recycling containers, and keep them touching. If they are on their own or set too far apart, people will not make the extra effort and you’ll end up with trash in your recyclables or recyclables in your trash.
  • Place containers where trash and recycling are generated.
  • Provide desk-side boxes for paper recycling in office settings.
  • Provide special containers for your situation -- such as bottle containers at sporting events or paper recycling at the exit of a performance hall.
Always pair trash and recycling containers. Bottle-shaped bins like these are designed to collect beverage containers (bottles and cans). Contamination is very low.

Be consistent

  • Use the same bin type, color and size throughout your institution.
  • Use the same signs/labels throughout your institution.
  • Color code your bins and signs for easy recognition
  • If the city or county has a sorting system that people use at home, consider using the same system at your institution. Prior experience will influence participants' behavior.




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