Waste Bins

Standardized Waste Bin Signage Case Study


In 2019, UCalgary launched its Standardized Waste Bin project as part of its Waste Diversion Program. To support this roll out, a Campus as a Learning Lab project was completed to provide signage for the new standardized waste stations that met the institutions’ obligations under the City of Calgary’s waste and recycling bylaws. This project also supported UCalgary’s goal to be a zero waste community; by 2020 80 per cent of waste will be diverted from the landfill.

In this co-curricular project, students examined how changing signage colour, size and content alters human behaviour, and how the university can increase understanding of its Waste Diversion Program. Preliminary research, such as looking at other institutions, was conducted about various approaches to increase waste diversion and reduce contamination. Working with UCalgary’s Waste and Recycling Coordinator, they then developed a survey which was administered to the campus community through various interactive pop-up booths. Examples of the proposed signage were included, and participants were asked to answer a series of questions about its effectiveness and opportunities for improvement. The campus community was also consulted about bin placement and questions or uncertainties they had about the Waste Diversion Program.


  • Having clear representative images with corresponding text on the signage was most effective.
  • Commonly mis-sorted items should be displayed both in the bin they DO and DO NOT belong in.
  • This project influenced bin size and location placement for optimal usage.

Next Steps:

  • The next phase will focus on campus community engagement to effectively and correctly use the new waste bins.  
  • The Office of Sustainability’s Peer Helpers will investigate outreach methods to inspire behaviour change on campus and collaborate with partners to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.