Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory
Although trash bins of various shapes, sizes, and materials have been around for centuries the wheeled trash bin, also known as a wheelie bin, is a relatively new invention. In fact, the ones we commonly see at the curbside didn’t make their way to the market until the 1970s. Prior to that residential trash bins were carried to the curb or hauled on carts. The standard two-wheeled bin for residential use usually has a capacity of 240 litres and measures 107 cm high, 58 cm wide, and 74 cm deep. Less popular models can have capacities of 120, 140, and 360 litres. Polyethylene is the preferred construction materiel though larger steel bins are sometimes used for industrial applications. The development of the wheeled bin was intended to make waste disposal easier on both the consumer and the trash hauler. Several innovative designs were introduced to accomplish that goal, including the metal bar installed on the front of the bin. The bar is used to lift the bin using a hydraulic arm, emptying its contents into the truck. Hinged lids open backwards to accommodate the lifting direction. A handle installed high on the rear allows the bin to be tipped back over the axle and moved easily, even when full.
For larger capacities, 4-wheeled bins range in capacity from 500 to 1280 litres. These light-weight polyethylene bins give consumers greater capacity and portability where a large steel dumpster would be impractical. In commercial uses prone to vandalism or other serious damage risk, galvanized steel is often used in place of polyethylene. Like their two-wheeled counterparts, 4-wheeled bins are emptied by lifting and rotating forward until the contents fall into the truck. Metal side-mounted brackets accomplish this task nicely. The term “green bin” is used in some places to denote one used only used for biodegradable materials like compost. This type of bin is widely used in Canada. A bright blue bin with the well-known triangular recycling symbol is commonly used in the U.S. for recyclable plastic, glass, paper, and cardboard. Colours for normal residential waste bins can be black, dark green, grey, red, brown, and purple. One of the only real concerns with the use of wheeled bins is direct sunlight or fire. Polyethylene plastic does not perform well in high temperatures, causing risk of malformation when exposed to direct sunlight for a long time. Should a fire break out inside one of these bins, the fumes from the melting plastic could be potential harmful to any people in the area.
Wheeled trash bins have made all of our lives a little bit easier. With no more dragging the old bins to the curb and heavy lifting by trash collectors, disposing of our waste may even be somewhat pleasant. Or not.
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