History of Wheelie Bins - From Prehistoric Times to Today

History of Wheelie Bins - From Prehistoric Times to Today

History Of Wheelie Bins - From Prehistoric Times To Today

Waste bins began as heavy, round and metal containers with two handles on the side and the top (to get a firm hold) and a lid to cover them. Basically, they were made up of a long sheet of metal welded along the smallest edge of the waste bin. The bottom was also a circular metal bottom. When collected by dustmen, these were usually picked by their handles and hoisted on their shoulders. It seems they never had much regard for hygiene or health and safety back then.

Round and Metal Containers


After the “original bin” came the heavy, bulk-loading, black plastic bins, also with two handles. There was a substantial advantage to the earlier bin - it was a lot more impervious to damage. However, waste that was hot, for example ashes, could damage the bin a lot more easily, as it was made of plastic and modified the structure of the bin.

The most recent upgrade to bins is wheelie bins. These are popular but are not ubiquitous across the globe. Countries that still do not care much for hygiene and health are still seen functioning on plastic bags which burst open if there is too much weight.

On the other hand, wheelie bins are also heavy plastic boxes, rectangular in shape and about 4’ tall and 18 inches wide. They have two wheels on the underside and a hinged, flap lid covering the top. There is also a bar attached just behind the hinged lid to pull/push up the bin. Various options of colour are also available like green, grey, blue red and brown, each with their own significance to denote different types of waste that are to be deposited there.

Who Invented the Wheelie Bin?

The actual source of the wheelie bin is still being disputed over by historians. It can be traced back to as early as in the ruins of the city of Pompeii, destroyed by volcanic activity. Among the ruins, were the fossilized remains of a wooden wheelie bin.


City of Pompeii


That’s not all, as prehistoric paintings of the primitive wheeled boxes were drawn in a cave up in the Himalayas. It is deduced that it used to contain left-over bones of mammoths. Even though they resemble the recent “wheelie bins”, there is really no other similarity between them. They were not used in countries that speak English.

The complete modern wheelie bin that is used by people in their homes was the idea of Frank Rotherham Mouldings on the behalf of a company in Slough on March 12th 1968. In the start, they were used to transport waste from one corner of the factory to another. A health and Safety Inspector was interested in these bins when he was checking up on the factory. He knew that it could emerge into something a lot bigger. Refuse collectors in England generally suffered back injuries by earlier forms of waste bins and he saw that these bins could effectively prevent it.

This was not implemented until the late 1980’s when refuse collection lorries came into existence which automatically picked up and emptied the bins. Being extremely handy, they truly started the reign of the wheelie bin.

After the introduction of the wheelie bin, there has been a change in the uniform of refuse collectors. The authentic though expensive donkey jackets with back protection has been forsaken because that was not needed with these new and improved bins.

Politics has also been paying attention to the wheelie bin, surprising as it may seem. It appears that in the month of May, 1988 at Birmingham, UK, two people were arrested as their wheelie bin was pushed upon the police who were trying to control the angry rioters. However, it was construed to be an accident, and they were released overnight.

The main motivation for this bin is to be more convenient than previous bins. The wheelie bin provides as much space as the original bin but at the same time reduced injuries. In the case of old bins, even without hoisting them onto the back, they can cause severe muscle injuries. With the new wheelie bin, however, even the elderly breathe a sigh of relief!