How to Label Trash Bins
July 6, 2021 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I've just gotten a notice that I should put my address on my trash and recycling bins. What is the easiest, most absolutely foolproof way to do this?

These are large plastic bins. I'm looking at stickers on Etsy, and they seem to require putting individual numbers on in a row. I am seriously terrible at anything like this. I would much rather have a sticker with all of the numbers and the street name on it, but I'm not seeing that. Or would it be better to get use spray paint and stencils? I would be terrible at getting that right as well.
Please do not answer this question unless you're willing to assume I know absolutely nothing. For instance "use paint" is not helpful to me. There are many kinds of paint. Links to specific items would be very much appreciated.
Thank you.
posted by FencingGal to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I were nervous about doing this myself, I would get a personalized stencil like this: and a can of spray paint that comes up if I search "spray paint for plastic" (assuming that's the material you're spraying on)
posted by brilliantine at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would just use a permanent marker. But you could make a sticker with your full address at
posted by aniola at 12:56 PM on July 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'd print out my address on a sheet of paper and then stick it on with clear postal tape. I'd make sure the entire label was covered in tape so it'd be somewhat waterproof. I'd accept that I'd probably have to reapply the labels at some point in the future.

If I wanted to get a bit fancier, I'd buy these waterproof (so they claim) card sleeves and stick the paper in there and then stick them to the lid/garbage cans with clear postal tape.

Neither of these solutions are pretty but they are functional and that'd good enough for me.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 12:57 PM on July 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

You could get individual adhesive vinyl letters/numbers at the hardware store and put those on 1 by 1. Kinda tedious but probably cheap.

I looked up "trash bin address" on Etsy and got a bunch of hits of people creating custom vinyl decals. I can almost guarantee that they're all using these desktop cutting machines (brand name Cricut or Silhouette) to create the decals. You can't tell from the pictures, but the individual pieces come on one big backing piece, and there's a pretty easy process to stick it on and then remove the backing. There's not much difference between each listing on Etsy other than price - I would go with one that uses big bold letters, they're going to be a bit easier to apply and also to read.
posted by radioamy at 12:58 PM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also, since you said to assume you know nothing, I thought you might like to know that it doesn't have to be perfect. If this happened to me, I would not be aiming for perfection. I would be aiming for "Have I communicated this information? Yes? Great! We're done here!"
posted by aniola at 12:59 PM on July 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

I labelled my trash and recycling bins by hand with a giant Sharpie like this one. So far it's lasted a couple of years.
posted by pocams at 12:59 PM on July 6, 2021 [20 favorites]

I notice that Amazon has personalized trash can stickers. $9. Me, I just went with a self-adhesive set of numbers, no street address. It's worked for 40 years, so... good deal.
posted by SPrintF at 1:00 PM on July 6, 2021

Here, everybody just spraypaints on in this ugly haphazard way without caring. It's a trashbin. But your neighborhood may be more picky. Some kid spraypainted a sad face on one of the cans. If I cared, i'd get the not so little address stickers numbers. I'd use a level if I felt picky, and stick them on right above a logo on the side of there was one, or near the lid if there wasn't.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:00 PM on July 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

Lowes sells number stencil sets in store for under $10. Add spray paint. (Home depot isn't showing any, perhaps I am searching the wrong name).

Some people just freehand the numbers with spray paint.

Do trial runs on a big piece of scrap cardboard.

You can also get number sticker packs in home improvement stores, meant for mailboxes and such, but you can repurpose for trashcans.

I'd probably prep the surface by cleaning and thoroughly drying first.
posted by TheAdamist at 1:00 PM on July 6, 2021

I've only ever seen this done in black Sharpie on the green and blue bins and silver or white (paint marker, Sharpie makes them but also many other brands do too) on the black bins.

It's just so somebody can tell what driveway to drag them into if they blow down the street or a car hits them.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:01 PM on July 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

Our garbage service spray paints the numbers on and it's held up very well through weather and washing. It's not the most beautiful marking as they didn't use stencils or any careful writing, but it's permanent enough and I've never had to think about redoing it.
posted by quince at 1:18 PM on July 6, 2021

I would use a big Sharpie or freehand spray paint. Doesn't have to look pretty unless it's important to you that it looks pretty, in which case a stencil or vinyl stick-on is a good way to go. Staples and similar places will also print custom decals if you don't want to bother with Etsy and delivery.
posted by mskyle at 1:24 PM on July 6, 2021

I would use one of the extra-large chisel-tip Sharpies and just go to town and draw it on in big numbers. You might have to refresh it every 6 months or so.
posted by mekily at 1:32 PM on July 6, 2021

FWIW, I bought a custom label on Etsy and it was all one piece - like you, I would not have been down for individual letters! Search for custom trash label.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:34 PM on July 6, 2021

I would consider just sticking some masking tape on, and writing on that.
posted by NotLost at 1:43 PM on July 6, 2021

A sharpie or freehand spraypaint will look worse than some kind of sticker or label, but OTOH they will be more of a hassle for someone else to remove if they decide for whatever dumb reason they want to steal your trash bins. IDK if this is an issue where you live, but it is for me.
posted by aubilenon at 1:51 PM on July 6, 2021

I have done this sort of thing. You can make a template by printing your information onto a fairly heavy piece of paper, the stiffest that your printer can handle. Cut out the letters with a blade, trying to keep the centers of the letters like A and P connected to the rest of the paper with a little bridge. Tape the paper to your object and either use spray paint or permanent marker. Remove the paper when the paint is dry. Follow instructions on the spray paint for the best and least drippy application.

Your paint job will be best if the paper lies flat and tight, with few gaps for the paint to go sideways. You can enhance that by cutting holes in the paper away from the lettering and then taping the paper to your object through the hole, in addition to taping around the edge of the paper.

As with many projects, your second try will probably look better than your first try.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2021

Get Rust-oleum white spray paint that sticks to plastic. Use masking tape to make a square on the trash can, spray inside the lines. Remove tape. You now have a nice white permanent square on the can that will be easier to read and write on than dark plastic. Then use a large tip Sharpie to put down your house number.

If you mess up, tape and spray again.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:23 PM on July 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

Any local sign shop will be able to make a peel-off premade sticker... think of vinyl door lettering. It is easily made per your specifications and the whole thing is arranged so that you simply peel off the backing.
posted by mightshould at 2:25 PM on July 6, 2021

I’ve only ever seen this done in black permanent marker, and usually haphazardly.
posted by rodlymight at 2:36 PM on July 6, 2021

On my street, it’s just the 2 digit street number, freehand spraypainted very large. Like 12-15” tall. Legibility from the front window outweighs flair.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:37 PM on July 6, 2021

The usually goldtone parallelogram mailbox stickers line themselves up. Around here everyone just uses the house number and not the whole address.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:51 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

A Sharpie oil-based marker will last forever. Available at Staples and also generally at your average Target or Wal-Mart or Lowes. Just write your address on. Foolproof. Who cares if your handwriting is janky, it’s a trash can.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:13 PM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

  1. Go to hardware store that sells paint and sample cans
  2. Get sample can of paint in contrasting color to the color of your trash can
  3. While there, pick up a paint brush in the desired width of your lettering (foam brushes are easier for can painting)
  4. Paint address on can
Not the classiest solution (depends on your skill) but it slaps the numbers and letters you need on the can for cheap. It's a garbage can, it doesn't need fancy.
posted by Anonymous at 4:56 PM on July 6, 2021

A paint pen will cost a few dollars and will work very well.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:43 PM on July 6, 2021

Most pens or markers will list the materials they will work on, so be sure to get one that says Plastic on it.
posted by soelo at 8:05 PM on July 6, 2021

Stenciling is the obvious choice but stenciling with spray paint is deceptively hard. Then you are going to have a mostly full can of spray paint to dispose of.

I would combine the neat letterforms of stencils with the paint pens mentioned above.

Lean the bin down so the surface is facing the sky. Tape the stencils on the surface the way you want. Use the paint pen to go around the edges. Fill in if you want.

Maybe do a test run on the underneath side that faces the ground first.
posted by sol at 12:23 PM on July 7, 2021

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