Recycling Container Placement & Signage

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For any recycling program to be successful, recycling containers must be as easy and convenient for employees to use as your current trash receptacles.  The design and signage on recycling containers is also very important for program success.  

When selecting and placing your recycling containers:

  • Place a recycling container with every waste receptacle
    • Placing the containers together assures that it is always as easy to recycle as it is to throw something away.  Employees should always have easy access to a recycling container.
  • Make sure containers are visible and in easily accessible areas
    • Placing containers behind doors, under counters, or obscuring signage inhibits the usage of the containers can lead to higher levels of contamination.  
  • Use consistent signage and color coding of containers
    • While containers may be different sizes or styles depending on their location, using consistent signage is important to reinforce what materials are accepted in your program.  All recycling containers should be the same color (blue is recommended) and all trash containers should be a different consistent color. This helps create a consistent way to identify the containers and what is acceptable to place in them.
  • Different container openings can help signal what goes inside your containers
    • The type of opening in the recycling container can also help your employees easily identify that it is a recycling container and what materials should be placed inside.  For example, some recycling containers have a small, round opening when compared to a trash container, indicating that it is for recycling bottles and cans.  Another common opening type is "saturn" shaped, signally that it is a recycling container for receiving mixed recycling including bottles, cans, and paper.  
  • Take the opportunity to assess the volume of your normal trash cans.
    • When you place recycling containers in your workspace consider reducing the number and size of trash containers at the same time.  Making recycling containers equally or more prominent in your workspace will subtly send a message about the importance of the recycling program to your staff.

When placing new recycling containers throughout your work space, make sure the group that handles the recycling and trash is present during the process.

  • Ensure they are aware on the locations of the containers and encourage them to give suggestions based on their workflow or potential problem areas.
  • If they are not able to be present at that time, make sure you do a walk-through with them after the containers have been placed.

Recycling Signage

  • Labeling should be consistent, not only for recycling containers but normal trash containers as well.
  • Use images whenever possible.
  • Make sure the labels are color coded to the container they represent.
  • Labels should showcase what materials are accepted. Customize your labels to only show the accepted items that are generated in your facility.
  • SWACO has electronic versions available of signage that you can use. Contact biz@swaco.org

If possible have contact information posted on the signs or nearby for employees to contact if there are questions about the recycling program.

Signage Exaple

Central Collection/Storage Area

If your operation is in a multi-story building or a facility with a large footprint, you might need to identify areas in the building where recyclables will be temporarily stored prior to delivering to the loading dock or other final location for collection by your service provider.  If this is the case, you must consider the volumes and length of time that containers will be stored in these areas to determine if there is enough space.

Consider:

  • Is the storage site large enough?
  • Is there easy access to freight elevators and loading docks?
  • Does the area comply with local fire and building codes?
  • How much waste can be stored before safety and code violations become a concern?
Central Accumulation Areas