Choosing Trash Receptacles for Your Sites

image of trash receptacles in a park

As you prepare for warmer weather, you want to make sure recreational areas are a source of pride for your department and joy for the patrons. Preventing and eliminating litter is a top priority.    

Public parks offer many benefits for those who use them. Litter, however, can distract and degrade the experience. In fact, poorly maintained sites with visible debris distract from patrons' perceived quality and safety of an experience. 

It's probably not the most glamorous decision you'll make, but choosing suitable trash receptacles adds to a site's aesthetic appeal and cuts down on litter. 

The right trash receptacles aren't singlehandedly going to make litter go away. A combination of educating the public, promoting staff responsibility, and regular scheduling of inspections are all essential aspects of litter control.

That being said, the most appropriate trash receptacles for your site compliments litter control efforts. Waste containers not chosen for specific site requirements can contribute to the litter problem.

Considerations for Selecting Trash Receptacles 

Taking time to assess the litter control needs and appropriate trash receptacles allows outdoor areas to retain their natural beauty during usage.

Here are some things to consider while selecting trash receptacles:


Sites get used differently. The one-size-fits-all receptacle approach may do more harm than good. Determine the amount and type of trash generated from each area. Factors could include the presence of:

  • Picnic areas 
  • Campsites 
  • Athletic fields 
  • Concession stands
  • Special programming

For example, a wire mesh container might work for sites that primarily collect paper waste. If you expect more organic waste generated--like at a campsite--a solid, traditional receptacle is a better option.

Containers used for collecting recyclables have surged in popularity as we take a more concerted effort to be kinder to the environment. Choosing recyclable containers, however, comes with its own set of considerations. For example, would the site benefit from receptacles specifically marked for different types of waste? How would the maintenance crew handle the collection of trash versus recycled material?


The receptacles should look attractive and blend in with the surroundings. But, of course, you want them to be noticeable enough to discourage littering. Also, keep in mind how well they will age in the setting.

For example, a metal trash container placed directly on the ground will start to rust quicker. This not only looks bad, it eventually makes collecting trash more difficult.    


A frequently used site needs high-quality receptacles. Choose design and materials that will hold up to the regular use of patrons and handling of the maintenance crew.

Using Lids?

Securely fitting lids help keep wildlife, rodents, insects, and other nuisances away from the waste. Animal proof tops are another potential solution if lids don't seem feasible.

Easy to Handle

How will your crew remove trash from the receptacles? If they have to lift the container to empty it, is the size large enough to hold the necessary waste without becoming too heavy?

Will plastic liners be used in the receptacles? Liners help speed up the trash collection process and keep waste contained more efficiently. Also, using liners prevents your crew from having to lift the containers. Choose liners that are at least 2 mm thick.

Easy to Clean

People want to see waste containers before smelling them. Encrusted waste in trash containers is unsanitary, distracting, and attracts rodents and pests. 

Is the receptacle designed for easy cleaning? What procedures and scheduling should your crew implement to ensure the cleanliness of containers?

Being Consistent with Litter Control

You selected and placed the best trash receptacles for your sites. Next, set up a schedule for your crew to check and empty them when necessary.

For some sites, this may be a routine task. Other areas may need more specific, dynamic scheduling based on programming. 

Some parks and recreation departments have found success in litter control by using maintenance software that integrates routine inspections, programming schedules, and work orders to keep their parks cleaner and more enjoyable to the public.