Spectrum of colours.

International Colour Day: The importance of colour in litter bin manufacturing

March 18, 2024

Colour is in everything we do. It can define the way we experience and perceive different facets of our lives. At Wybone, it’s no different. We use colour to dictate the purpose of each unit – but sometimes it’s simply down to the preference of our customers. 

In honour of International Colour Day, we wanted to shine a light on the importance of colour in litter bin manufacturing – and perhaps provide some assistance when you come to design your own litter bin.

Why is colour so important?

Colour has deep-rooted connotations and affiliations across social, cultural and psychological contexts that can represent important areas in people’s lives. It can be as impactful as religion and even a form of effective communication, or it can simply be for aesthetic purposes to impress viewers or make them look and think. 

It’s a topic with an almost endless conversation. And in the context of Wybone, colour plays an important part in communication and stylistic design.

Bin colours and waste

When it comes to waste management, the colour of your bin (in most cases) determines the type of waste that bin is made for. In our home town of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the council encourages residents to have four bins on their property: a blue bin, a green bin, a grey bin and a brown bin. The blue bin is for cardboard and paper, the green bin is for garden waste, the grey bin is for general waste and the brown bin is for cans, tins and glass bottles. Our neighbouring residents of Kirklees have three bins: a grey bin for general waste, a green bin for recycling and a brown bin for garden waste. 

Across the UK, each county has its own regulations on what type of waste matches each bin colour. But nevertheless, colour is a focal point for correct waste disposal.

How Wybone uses colour for their litter and recycling bins

Clinical Waste Bins

At Wybone, we’ve been manufacturing clinical waste bins since 1973. And we’ve built up a strong partnership with the NHS since 1998, being a first choice for supplying healthcare bins to hospitals across the country.

Over the years, we’ve established waste-specific colours that are recognised by the healthcare system and are made clear by the lid colour of each unit.

  • Our black lid is general/domestic waste, which can include personal protective equipment not contaminated with body fluids, paper towels, disposable cups, newspapers, rinsed medicine tots, packaging from medicine and uncontaminated dressing and badges. 
  • The tiger lids (black with a yellow stripe) are offensive waste, like incontinence pads, colostomy bags, urine bags, dressings and PPE contaminated with body fluids not known to be infectious.
  • Orange is infectious waste items known to be contaminated with infectious pathogens e.g. dressings from known infected wounds, and other items that have been in contact with infectious fluids.
  • Yellow is hazardous waste, like sharps (needles) contaminated with drugs.
  • Purple is cytotoxic/static waste – this is waste that contains specific drugs such as hormones.

Beyond these standardised lid colours, we also manufacture clinical waste bins with additional coloured lids, ranging from green, blue and red. We find that the waste streams used for these colours varies by hospital, but blue is often used for laundry, green is used for recycling and red is for plastic bottles.

A row of clinical waste bins.
Metal Clinical Waste Bins

Indoor litter & recycling bins

With our indoor litter and recycling bins, we often use lid colour (and apertures) to determine waste types. Using our Box Cycle Range as an example, here’s how we do it:

  • Dark green is used for food waste
  • A lighter green is used for mixed recycling – orange is an option for this, too.
  • Blue is used for paper, newspapers and magazines and mixed paper and card.
  • Black is used for general waste.
  • Light grey is used for cans.
  • Red is for plastic bottles.
  • Turquoise is for mixed glass.

We use these same colours for our popular indoor C-Bin and MM Recycling Ranges, building up colour affiliation so our customers can make that quick link between colour and waste type. Body colours consist of white or grey as standard, but we’re always happy to provide bespoke colour options.

Box Cycle Quad Litter & Recycling Bin for University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Box Cycle Quad

Outdoor litter & recycling bins

When it comes to our street bins, the way we use them isn’t influenced by the colour of the unit. Customers can still make use of the colours and their meanings with A4 and/or A3 vinyl or perspex artwork, but the body and lid colour of our street bins simply come from customer preference. 

This means that there are no limits on what colour you choose – we can cater to the full-colour palette, providing a unique, bespoke design specifically for you.

Our outdoor litter and recycling bins are manufactured from galvanised steel, glass fibre composite or polythene plastic. To achieve your choice of colour on our steel bins, we powder coat them. Powder coating also provides an additional protective barrier, preventing scrapes and abrasions from occurring. We simply paint our glass fibre composite and plastic litter bins in your choice of colour. 

The benefit of having flexibility when it comes to choosing from a range of colours for your unit is choosing a colour that you think best matches the area the unit(s) will reside in. With the right choice of colours, you can create a visually appealing bin that catches the eye of tourists and locals. 

Leeds City Council did just that with our Apollo bin. They ordered 30 recycling units in 2021 to be distributed around the city, and they chose a luminescent yellow to create a unit that’s eye-catching and a point of interest. The aim was to catch people’s curiosity and ultimately increase recycling rates in the city. You don’t always need colour-specific waste units. Sometimes, choosing colour for aesthetic purposes can be just as effective!

The yellow Apollo for Leeds City Council.
The Apollo for Leeds City Council

Today, we celebrate the power of colour. And being a waste management company, we don’t think the link between colour and waste bins gets the recognition it deserves! Colour creates and amplifies waste streams, paving the way for correct waste separation that widely benefits the environment.

If you have any questions about available colours for any of our products, our sales team are here to help. Get in touch by emailing [email protected] or by calling 01226 744010.

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