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The real contents of a general waste bin: What can we learn?

By 10th October 2023 No Comments

The real contents of a general waste bin: What can we learn?

Have you ever stopped to consider what lies within the depths of your bin? Well, the good news is you don’t need to – the have done it for us. Understanding the contents of a general waste bin are an important first step in waste segregation.

In this blog, we’re going to delve deep into the contents of an average bin and explore what it can teach us about our waste, our consumption, and our impact on the planet.

So, let’s take a closer look at what we might find in an average bin.

A recent study on ‘the characteristics of an average general waste bin’ found a lot of items in a general waste bin which could have been recycled or composted at a lesser environmental and financial cost.

In a general waste bin we typically find:

A graph showing the contents of a general waste bin

  • 36% of materials was correctly placed there
  • 24% of material could have been recycled
  • 21% could have been composted or disposed in a brown bin
  • 19% could have been sent to a bring centre instead of general waste

Food waste is a very common item found in the general waste. Composting at home or disposing of food waste in an organic waste bin is a better option for the environment and for customer bills.

Plastics including soft plastics are the second most common item found in a general waste bin. Plastics and plastic packaging can be disposed of in a recycle bin.

Garden waste, paper and cardboard are the next most common item found in a general waste bin. All of these items can be disposed of in other bins, reducing the cost of disposal for a general waste bin.

In Ireland general waste disposal is becoming more expensive year on year. This year the Irish Government introduced a new levy for general waste disposal. The aim of this levy is to entice the public to send less waste away in general waste and improve the quality of home recycling.


We’ve covered only a few of the possible items that could be found in an average bin, but they highlight some of the challenges we face in the management of our waste. By taking a closer look at the things we throw away and the environmental impacts, we can begin to make changes toward a more sustainable future.

Reducing our consumption is always the first step to a managing our waste more efficiently. Think about what you can do at home to use less plastics, and reuse existing materials before you recycle.

Beyond that, learning what you can and can’t recycle is an important tool for all households. You can print out this leaflet and leave it above your bins at home.