Do’s and Don’ts: the power of signage to reduce contamination

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Ever feel like you’re taking a gamble on which waste stream is correct for the waste you’re disposing of? Through the use of waste signage, the public can be educated on what to throw out and where to help prevent contamination in our recycling and compost streams! 

Keep reading for our full list of do’s and don’ts!

How am I contaminating waste?

As ironic as it may sound, the items we throw out as waste have the risk of contaminating future resources. For most people, waste is an “out of sight, out of mind” topic. But let’s be real – waste in the US is more out of control than anything! 

Contamination starts when people place their waste in the wrong bin. When those items end up in our recycling and compost collection, they lead to problems in recycling facilities and our soil.

Power of Signage!

In order to get people to take on less wasteful behaviors, make the right move the easier choice. Through the accessibility of waste education in your everyday life, the right choice will be one you don’t need to think twice about! By supplying signage on compost bins, recycling bins, and landfill bins in the workplace and public areas, people will have the ability to properly dispose of their waste.

In the Workplace

There are plenty of opportunities in the workplace for guiding employees on how to properly dispose of waste. If there’s a waste bin, there should be signage. Locations including bathrooms, eating areas, printer spaces, and an office bulletin board are great examples of spots to put up reminder signage.

waste signage in the workplace

The best part is that it’s simple! Don’t stress over an elaborate poster explaining the reasoning behind why this goes here and not there. Rather, use an online resource to gather posters, stickers, and other forms of signage. Keeping it simple makes it easier for people to throw out their waste in a quick and efficient manner. However, if you use generic signage, you must make sure that the guidelines match with your local waste facility!

In Public Spaces

Public spaces such as the parking lot of your workplace are another example of spots that would benefit from signage. More specifically, the use of color-coordinated bins with clear signage is a simple and organized way to spread the message. Not enough room for detailed information on the signage? The use of QR codes allows the signage on bins to remain short and sweet while also providing a resource for more information.  

At Special Events

In addition to the waste produced in our day-to-day lives, special events result in the production of waste from materials that are less common in our daily routine.  Whether a company is hosting a breakfast for their employees or a community event, signage comes to the rescue once again!

waste signage at an event

When I think of a special event, the main source of waste that comes to mind revolves around single-use products. Suppose that there’s a party to celebrate the fourth of July. Products that could pop up include glow sticks, sparklers, paper plates, plastic cups, and disposable decorations. Since these materials are used on occasion, special events would benefit from specific signage based on what’s expected to be disposed of. 

Do’s & Don’ts for Signage:


  • Color coordinate bins and trash bags for each waste stream 
  • Keep design layout consistent to avoid confusion 
  • Include visual examples of what can go in each bin 
  • Mention specific items that cannot be disposed of (ex: plastic cutlery doesn’t go in recycling bin)
  • Use QR codes for more information
  • Keep graphics simple and visually pleasing
  • Create specific signage when hosting an event


  • Switch the color coordination for bags and bins
  • Use different layout styles for each waste stream
  • Cram the signage with too many words
  • Use tiny font or hard to read colors
  • Use signage that doesn’t match with what materials your waste hauler accepts
  • Position signage on an area of the bin that will not be seen immediately

Interested in specific tips or custom signage for your workplace or upcoming event? Connect with us. We love talkin’ trash!

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