5. Evolution of Signage

Signage provides an important source of information on how to properly use the recycling stations. Despite its importance, not all signage provides beneficial information and can sometimes result in greater confusion. In this section, we explain why we rank some public space recycling stations and signage as more effective.

Recycling Station and Signage #1

At a Glance: Very Effective

Recognition:
  • Strong colour coding of bins
  • Bins are tall, stand out and visible from a distance
Visuals:
  • Good graphics showing divertable materials
  • Text is large and capitalized
Features:
  • Large openings in bins but may be difficult for some people to access
  • Paired with a garbage bin with good message “GARBAGE – STOP”

metro-vancouver-signage-gallery

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This recycling station has most of the components of effective signage. Each entire bin is colour coded and easy to see from a distance. The colours match Metro Vancouver’s residential blue box program colours, with blue for containers, yellow for paper, and green for compost.   The simple text is large and stands out against the background. The images are in colour, large and easy to read. As the user walks up to the bin, the images and text are easy to see.

The bins stand over five feet tall, so are easy to see from a distance. These bins are intended for events and are not designed to be permanent. The holes are shaped to remind the users their intended purpose with round openings for containers, rectangular openings for paper and oval openings for organics.


Recycling Station and Signage #2

At a Glance: Effective

Recognition:
  • Bins are fairly visible from a distance with signage appearing above the slots
  • Slots are colour coded
Visuals:
  • Signs are colour coded with good graphics/images and arrows pointing to the slots
  • Text could be larger
Features:
  • Large slot openings using different shapes to help denote activity
  • Handle on the organics bin may deter use
  • Recycling and composting bin paired with garbage bin

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This multi sort recycling station uses strong signage with good coloured images and arrows pointing to the holes. The signage hangs above the slots and is easy to see from a distance. The text, which could be larger to stand out more, uses simple wording such as “bottles and cans” and “paper” to relate to the materials to be recycled; however, this may be cancelled by the fact that both streams are coloured in blue. While the City has chosen to mimic the residential blue box program that offers two blue boxes for containers and paper, consider using yellow for paper, to reduce cross contamination in the two streams. The round opening for bottles/cans and slit opening for paper should help to reduce cross contamination.

The front of the bins provide minimal colour coded information. There is ample space for larger text and more colour coding. The handle on the organics bin may act as a deterrent for many users if their hands are full and cannot easily open the lid. The easily accessible garbage slot beside it, may become the default.


Recycling Station and Signage #3

At a Glance: Effective

Recognition:
  • Bins are fairly visible from a distance with signage appearing above the slots
  • Slots are colour coded
Visuals:
  • Signs are colour coded
  • Supporting images are faint and difficult to read
  • the images do not provide good information to the user
  • Text size is good and stop sign on the garbage bin is effective
Features:
  • Large slot openings using different shapes to help denote activity
  • Recycling and composting bin paired with garbage bin

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This tri sorter recycling station uses colour coded signage with supporting text to indicate blue for recycling, green for compost and black for garbage supported by the use of icons. The images, however, are faint and difficult to read and may provide little additional information to the user. Images are best presented in colour and using real pictures rather than drawings.

The stop sign symbols, with “stop” and “think first” in capital letters stand out and send a good cue to the user, to think about what they are discarding to landfill.

The bins themselves are not colour coded so it may take the public a few extra seconds to distinguish which bin is for which activity. The openings are colour coded and shaped to indicate use, with the garbage opening larger than the recyclable and compost opening. The colour coding of the openings will help the user once they are standing at the recycling station.


Recycling Station and Signage #4

At a Glance: Satisfactory

Recognition:
  • Bins are aesthetically appealing but may be difficult to see from a distance
Visuals:
  • The bin and sign are colour coded
  • White text stands out against the blue background
  • Good images but small and indicate only bottles and cans accepted which is not supported by the text
  • Half of the sign is used for the municipal logo, instead of used for more supporting information
Features:
  • Slot opening on the front helps protect recyclables from weather
  • Recycling bin paired with garbage bin

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The recycling station is aesthetically appealing, especially compared with the garbage bin beside it. The large white letters for “Recycling” against the strong blue background help the text to stand out. Putting the text in capitals would have been better. The graphics are good but indicate that only containers are accepted in the stream. Further wording, such as “bottles and cans only” would help to provide more useful information to the user. There is ample space on the front of the bin for additional information, since over half of the space is taken up by the municipal logo.

The round opening also indicates that the bin is dedicated to the container stream only. The side opening helps to protect the materials from the weather. The bin may be attached to the pole behind to reduce potential vandalism.


Recycling Station and Signage #5

At a Glance: Ineffective

Recognition:
  • Bins may be difficult to see from a distance
  • Poor colour coding of bins
  • Green bin is used for garbage rather than organics, which may be confusing to the user
Visuals:
  • Signs are very difficult to read
  • Text is too small to read
  • Good images but small
Features:
  • Slot opening on the front helps protect recyclables from weather
  • Recycling bin paired with garbage bin

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The best feature of these public space containers is the fact that the bins are twinned but rather than blue bin used for recyclables and green bin for organics, as would be expected using the North American colour coding, the green bin is used as a garbage bin. This use of colour could be very confusing to the user and result in higher contamination rates. The side openings help to protect the materials from the weather.

While effort has been made to provide coloured graphics on the bin, they are small and not easy to read. The graphics would benefit from some simple wording to indicate what the bins are for, e.g. recycling and organics/compost. The small sign above the bins with the word recycle and a Mobius loop provide very little benefit directing users to the bins compared to a banner or flag.


Recycling Station and Signage #6

At a Glance: Very Ineffective

Recognition:
  • Bins may be difficult to see from a distance
  • Very poor colour coding of bins
  • Green bin is used for plastics, black for aluminum and blue for paper, which may be confusing to the user
Visuals:
  • No signage or images provided
  • Text is a good size
Features:
  • Slot opening on the front helps protect recyclables from weather
  • No pairing with garbage bin
  • Bins look durable

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The colour of the recycling bins does not indicate the intended purpose of the bins. The blue bin does not indicate mixed recyclables or containers, as NA universally accepted, but identifies paper recycling. The black bin, typically identified for garbage, is used for aluminum containers and the green bin, typically identified for organics, is used for plastic. What type of plastics can be recycled is unknown.

The bins lack signage and provide no images or information about what materials should be recycled. The bins do not appear to be paired with a garbage bin, which will increase the likelihood of one or more becoming the default garbage bin. The only redeeming feature of the bins is that they look fairly durable.