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Have you ever wondered why wheelie bins differ in design depending on where you are in the UK? Why are they not just all black or green?
One reason is that collection systems and services differ between local authorities. Some councils offer services like food waste and garden waste disposal, and different coloured bins tell residents what they should put in each bin. Some councils have even chosen bin colours that better fit with their local area and surroundings. One local authority got complaints about their yellow bins in built up areas as people confused them with road signs and other signage.
In the city of Liverpool, the bins are purple, which many people say is a mixture of red and blue to represent the allegiance to Liverpool and Everton in the city.
The problem of designing street litter bins
Design and colour choice is more of a problem when it comes to street litter bins, because there’s a need for them to have different functions and to coordinate with the other street furniture nearby. There is guidance available from the Design Council, but all final decisions on bins rest with the local authority.
Bin colours changed with increased litter
The increased use of plastic packaging which began in the 1950’s and the resulting rise in litter meant that councils had to make their litter bins more noticeable so people would use them. Scarborough council changed their bins to cream instead of green, and Windsor adopted red and yellow.
The Women’s Institute instigated the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign in response to rising litter levels, and the Design Council (which was the Council of Industrial Design at the time) organised a competition for well-designed and economical bins for public places. The successful entrants would have their designs exhibited in a litter bin exhibition at Embankment Gardens in London.
Designs were subject to rigorous testing by local authorities. Bins were sat on, turned upside down, and taken apart. An open concrete bin was praised for its robustness, but some people criticised the fact that it wouldn’t keep wildlife from getting to the rubbish.
Bins might not seem a fascinating subject, but their testing and development has presented councils with many dilemmas; whether to use locks, their size and weight, and much more. It has also given us an insight into different needs in different parts of the UK.