Waste Receptacles: A Primer

Last updated Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Any place of business, or public venue, needs waste receptacles to maintain cleanliness and convey the proper image.  While commercial waste receptacles were once considered a “necessary evil,” they are increasingly thought of as an important element in a site’s décor.  Now, the style and aesthetic compatibility of a site’s waste receptacles are considered as important to its visual image as its carpeting or drapery.

Commercial waste receptacles are most prominently used in public parks, malls, stadiums, hospitals, restaurants, offices, hotels, and many other locations.


In choosing a waste receptacle, perhaps the most important factor is whether it will be located indoors or outdoors.  While most styles can effectively work in indoor settings, steel or concrete receptacles are most suited to outdoors because of their ability to withstand elements.

Décor issues are also an important factor in the selection of a receptacle model.  Some styles are specifically designed to match contemporary architecture styles, while others are designed to match classic styles in order to convey a “retro” vibe.


Let’s look at some of the most popular styles of commercial waste receptacles:

Steel receptacles are the best bet when you need a receptacle that can withstand harsh weather conditions.  Steel cans can be hot-dip galvanized powder-coated, or stainless steel.  A see-through steel design often referred to as the “street basket,” is ideal for city streets, parks, beaches, other high-traffic areas.  Another style variation is stainless steel receptacles with Perma-Wood slats, to give the receptacle the look of a wood (often cedar) container.

Fiberglass receptacles offer more color options, and these receptacles have a more artsy and striking look.  They are relatively easy to produce in custom colors to match a site’s décor (the largest distributors of waste receptacles offer fiberglass receptacles in more than 30 colors).  Fiberglass finish is able to withstand hard and constant use, providing superior protection against stains and scratches.

Chrome, Brass, Aluminum, and Marble receptacles are designed exclusively for indoor use.  These styles boast an elegant look most likely to be seen in upscale environments.

Most receptacles feature a circular, square, or rectangular build and opening.  One exception is the “Half-Round” style.  These semi-circular receptacles fit square against a wall, which reduces the amount of space typically taken up by a receptacle in high-traffic areas.

Other Receptacle Types

Two other types of receptacles should be noted:

Medical receptacles are specifically designed for hospitals, doctor’s offices, medical facilities, and laboratories.  These steel step cans provide for the safe containment of infectious waste, bacteria, and germs and protect the facility’s equipment and overall environment.

Security cans are made of clear plastic to ensure complete visibility of the contents inside.  They were designed to protect against the placement of explosive devices in public waste receptacles by terrorists (after such situations occurred in Europe).  In May 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a directive that only clear plastic or other bomb-resistant receptacles were allowed in certain (mostly transportation-related) locations.

Fire Safety

If a receptacle is likely to be placed in proximity to smokers, kitchens, etc., fire safety is paramount.  Many receptacles are tested and approved for the fire-safe indoor containment of dry flammable paper waste products.  Steel and aluminum receptacles should comply with the National Fire Protection Association Line Safety Code, which states that wastebaskets shall be noncombustible.

Many styles of receptacles are also available in a variation that features a sand urn at the top for cigarette ashes and butts.


There are a myriad of waste receptacle styles that can effectively blend in with a site’s décor, as well as meet needs for resistance to outdoor elements, or to fit in unobtrusively to a location’s available space.  A receptacle’s style, durability, and fire-safety are important factors to consider before making a purchase.

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