Recycling bins were first introduced when recycling became a more widespread practice and when the recyclables collected from households and businesses were more diverse. The recyclable collection system is very different across the world and so is the appearance and exact function of recycling bins.
According to the materials they collect:
Paper and cardboard: Generally, communal paper and cardboard bins have a narrow rectangular aperture and are coloured in either red or green. On certain bins there is an inscription indicating what is accepted and what isn’t, for instance ‘’no brown cardboard’’, ‘’no envelopes’’, ‘’magazines only’’ and so forth. Also, there is a particular type of ecological indoor bin designed exclusively for paper; it is made from recycled paper or cardboard, usually has a large capacity and is predominantly placed in offices. They require clean paper, free of any contaminants such as food or oil.
Metal: Bins designed for depositing metals are customarily used for steel and aluminium cans, which are found on the market as food packaging. They normally have larger apertures than paper bins due to the size of the cans. They also require that the items deposited there be rinsed under the tap first, to avoid contamination and pestilence. Empty aerosol cans are sometimes accepted as well.
Glass: It is common for public facilities (such as supermarkets) to provide more than one bin for depositing glass, as differently coloured glass cannot be chemically recycled together. Mechanical recycling of mixed types is possible yet less frequent. Therefore, there is a separate container for clear glass, which makes up most of the glass found on the market, another one for green glass and a third one for brown/amber glass. Sometimes, the last two categories are mixed.
Plastic: Although any type of plastic can be recycled, there are communal plastic bins which accept PET (polyethylene) only, for a quicker and easier recycling process. Polyethylene constitutes the main type of plastic people deposit, mainly in the form of bottles. Most communities provide special facilities for recycling plastic bags as well (which are usually made from low density polyethylene).
Mixed recyclables: Some areas provide mixed recyclables bins, which specify what types of recyclables are acceptable. This involves a manual separation of the items by the bin provider after collection. Items such as tin foil, plastic bags or thin plastic packaging aren’t usually accepted.
Textiles: Outside your local supermarket, you might encounter a smaller sized container for donating used clothes and shoes, which are subsequently donated to a charity. The name of the charity is sometimes specified on the container.
Unlike those provided by local authorities, recycling bins designed for households and business headquarters are produced and sold by private companies and come in an infinity of sizes, colours and styles, to meet an ever growing demand.
Plastic: Plastic is widely used today in manufacturing domestic and office recycling bins of all sizes, as due to its properties it can be placed both indoors and outdoors. It is a light, easily cleanable material, and its robustness and a barrier to moisture, which makes it weather-proof. Plastic bins are of many types - stationary or mobile (wheelie bins), single or multiple units etc. They also come with many different types of lids.
Steel: Communal and commercial recycling bins are usually made from metal, which in most cases is steel. Galvanised steel (steel with a zinc coating) is preferred due to its increased resistance to corrosive elements, rodents as well as vandalism, which increases its lifespan by many years.
Wood: Wooden recycling bins are considered ecological as well, as they are biodegradable. They are more expensive through but blend into the décor easily when placed outdoors. They often come with hinged lids and some are lockable.
Cardboard: Cardboard is widely used in the production of disposable bins for sanitary items, yet there is another use for it as well, in manufacturing ecological paper recycling bins. Due to their light construction and physical properties (frailty, permeability to water, easy contamination) they require a clean and dry environment, which is why they are used in offices, public institutions, schools etc.
Small – Small bins normally have a capacity of 140 litres or less and are principally used indoors.
Medium – Standard outdoor bins for household use fit approximately 240 litres, which is the capacity of a normal wheelie bin for depositing rubbish.
Large – Bins exceeding the capacity of 240 litres and below that of 660 are considered large and are often used on commercial premises, indoors or outdoors (mostly outdoors).
Extra large – Between the capacity of 660 and 1000 litres, which is usually the maximum, bins are considered very large. They can be found on commercial premises, near public facilities, outside tenements etc.
Single or multiple units: Single unit recycling bins are generally for a single material, such as paper, glass, metal or plastic. There are however mixed recyclable bins, which hold all four. Multiple units, also known as segregated bins, are two ore more units contained in the same bin and are usually of small dimensions, as they tend to be used indoors.
Indoor or outdoor use: Indoor use bins are always smaller as they have o fit into tither spaces. There are many different categories in terms of size, structure, material and colour. Providing hygiene and convenience is the most important objective when manufacturing them, therefore most of them are made from plastic, although stainless steel ones are not uncommon either.
Lockable recycling bins: Bins designed for indoor use are not lockable, unlike those projected for the outdoors, which often come with pad locks. A number of incidents could occur when recycling bins are left unlocked in a busy area, such as vandalism, animal damage or damage caused by the natural elements. Plastic would no be affected by water, metal rusts, while paper sticks together and grows mould. Whereas there is no fear of one’s recyclables being stolen, there is a concern for damage and littering. Lids are usually hinged, regardless of the bins being lockable or not.
Apertures: For convenience, some bins come with apertures, which are situated on the upper half, below the lid. They can be narrow, large, rectangular, circular or oval, depending on the average shape and size of the items deposited there.
Wheelie bins: Whilst communal bins tend to be of higher capacity and for that reason stationary, outdoor household bins often feature wheels and resemble the classic wheelie bins used for collecting rubbish. This makes them much easier to transport when required.
Under the desk recycling bins: Some bins, designed for offices and homes, have the ideal size and opening mechanism for placing under a desk. They fit perfectly and open from the top, through sliding lids, facilitating their perpetual use by people with desk jobs, with minimal effort.
Did You Know?
According to Defra, each person in England produced an average of 457 Kilograms of waste in 2009-10. Of this, an average of about 181 Kilograms per person was recycled. That left 60% of un-recycled waste, at an average of 276 kilograms per person.