How to Keep Your Recyclables Clean

Gas stations are often the only places that travelers will visit before arriving at their destinations. And now that people are used to recycling at their homes and work, many come to expect that a gas station will have facilities to allow them to recycle while on the road.

Unfortunately, other travelers who frequent gas stations may find your recycling bins are a convenient place to dump their trash. But diapers, food waste and paper packaging can be kept out of your recycling bins with a little creativity and customer education.

Helping your customers to recycle properly doesn’t just protect valuable resources, but it also helps your business to save money and promotes it as being environmentally friendly. If you’re going to go to the effort to offer recycling to your customers and staff, then you’ll want to make sure that it remains as clean and uncontaminated as possible.

This improves the environmental performance of your recycling program, since contaminated recycling takes more time and energy to sort and clean, or can even end up being sent to landfill. It also prevents your sites from being hit by fines or additional charges by your recycling haulers for contaminated dumpsters.

Here are some simple, practical suggestions from gas stations and convenience stores that have effectively managed to reduce contamination in their recycling.

  1. Use a Different Lid Color for Recycling Bins
    Visual cues are vital to help people use the right container for their trash when they’re not paying full attention. Color coding of recycling and trash can lids, ideally in line with official state waste identification colors, is a really helpful tool.

    If in doubt, common lid colors are blue for recyclables, and brown for trash cans.

  2. Stick Big “Recyclables only / No trash” Signs on and Above the Recycling Bins
    Make your signs big and beautiful! Signage is vital, and ideally it should have pictures of what is and isn’t meant to go inside each bin. This is especially important because not all of your customers will have English as their first language.

    Use images that are typical to your gas station’s waste stream, to help your customers make the right choice when they go to toss their waste. This is highly beneficial when people are making a quick, or absent-minded decision.

    Keep your graphics simple with 3-6 images and don’t over complicate your images to avoid confusion. Make sure your recycling labels are colorful, clear, and at eye level.

  3. Use Bin Lids with Hinged Flappers Shaped Like the Items That Should be Put Inside
    A circular hole for cans and plastics, and a slot for paper makes a huge difference. Sure, people can scrunch their trash to fit most holes, but it’s a really useful visual indicator and behavior changer. Your trash cans should have large hinged flappers to make it easy to accommodate the greatest variety of items.

    Bins with lids and flappers are also great for preventing waste and recycling material from being blown out by the wind – or pests like birds and rodents making a mess. This reduces the amount of litter that staff have to clean up from your forecourts, saving valuable time, improving the aesthetics of the sites, and reducing the level of harmful environmental contamination from your stations.

  4. Educate Customers
    Put up informative signs and posters about what they can recycle at your premises, along with details on the benefits that recycling and waste reduction provide. These informative posters are particularly effective when placed at filling areas where people have a long wait time as they fill up their tanks, near the trash and recycling cans, and inside the stores in areas where people queue.

    You can also post information about the successes of your own recycling program, showing how much recycling has been collected, and how that equates to positive environmental savings. For example, you can show the carbon dioxide savings from recycling material, rather than sending it to landfill, and compare this to taking a certain number of cars off the streets. Your waste and recycling provider should be able to provide you with this information, which really brings your program’s successes to life.

  5. Place a Trash Bin Next to Any Recycling Bins
    People can be quite lazy when it comes to dumping their trash and recycling, so if they have trash in their hands and they’re standing near a recycling bin, chances are that a lot of people will just put it in the recycling bin instead. By providing a trashcan alternative next to any recycling container, you’ll make it much simpler and more likely that they’ll use the right can.

No Nonsense Solutions with NWA

NWA has a common-sense approach to waste and recycling for gas stations and convenience stores – click here to learn more. We focus on saving you the most money while concurrently making waste management simpler and lessening the impact on the environment. Our experts will work directly with your station managers or District Managers to help them optimize their waste and recycling programs in the shortest period of time. The result of this diligent work is a cost-effective waste and recycling program that saves you money while also helping the environment.

Want our experts to optimize your waste and recycling operations?
Contact us at 1-888-692-5005 x6 or
email us at

© 2021 National Waste Associates