Introduction: Recycling Can Eye-Level Sign

Middle school students are in such a hurry that they often miss the waste sorting procedures posted on side of the collection bins. Sometimes, you just need to get in their face. Presenting these busy teens with eye-level messages on how to properly sort their waste will, at the least, limit their claim that they "didn't see the sign". This instructable is on how to create a cheap eye-level sign for a 44 gallon Brute garbage/recycling/composting collection bin. Placing signage at eye-level with proper waste sorting procedures supports clear messaging because it eliminates bodily interference often associated with signage mounted on the side of the collection bin. Also, these signs were designed to allow custodians unhindered access to emptying the cans, just make sure to make the signs high enough so they can remove the trash bags. So go ahead, get in their face with the important message of how to properly sort their waste.



  • 44 Gallon Brute garbage can (other sizes and types of cans might work, but this design takes advantage of the handle size and shape on a Brute can)
  • 4 - 1/2" PVC Street 90s SXMPT ($3.50)
  • 2 - 1/2" PVC Female Threaded Unions FPTXFPT ($1.50)
  • 2 - 1/2" PVC 90s with Side Outlet (3-way) ($2.00)
  • 2 - 1/2" PVC 90Deg ($1.00)
  • 2 - 1/2" PVC Tees ($2.00)
  • 4 - 1"X5/16" Hex Bolts ($1.00)
  • 4 - 5/16" Nylon Lock Nuts ($1.00)
  • 4 - 1/4" Washers ($0.65)
  • 4 - 5/16" Washers ($0.75)
  • 2 - 10' 1/2" PCV pipe ($4.00)
  • 1 - 24" X 12" Main Sign Backing (plastic lawn sign)
  • 2 - 6"X18" Side Sign Backing
  • 14 - 1/8"X1/2" Pop Rivets (or velcro)
  • 14 - 1/8" washers

Step 1: Prepare the PVC Fittings

First off, the Street 90 is particular - it needs to be the type with a flat bottom (see image) so that the washer and nut sit flush with the bottom. I did find these at my local box hardware store, but their stock was low and intermittent, and because I needed to make several of these signed bins I ended up having to order them specifically from a Sprinkler Warehouse online store.

Step A: Assemble two "U" Handle Bases by threading the street 90s into the threaded union to create a "U". You may need to use some pliers to get the 90s into a U shape, but the assembly does not need to be tighten much beyond hand-tight (depending on the width of the handle of the garbage can you are using).

Step B: You can either drill the "U" handle base now, or in Step 2 which is a little easier and will save time. If now, drill 5/16 hole in the bottom of the street 90 so that it is in the center of the slip joint bottom. I found it best to drill down into the slip cavity (as opposed to from the outside as the image implies) so that you get the hole lined up properly to receive the nut and washer that need to sit flat in the bottom of the slip cavity.

Step 2: Bolt Sign Pole U-Base to Garbage Can Handle

Step A:The easiest way to drill the holes in the U-base and garbage can handle is to assemble the U-bases (Step 1), press them into the handles of the garbage can (they are tight and need a little force - tapping with a hammer helped), and then drill with a 5/16 bit down into the slip cavity of the Street 90s so that the washer and nut will sit flat in the bottom of the cavity. You want the washer to sit flat and not ride up by touching the wall of the slip cavity. By drilling the U-bases this way you also drill the holes in the garbage can handles, thus saving a step.

If you predrilled the Street 90s in Step 1, then you need to drill the handles of the garbage can if there are not holes already that line-up with the holes in the U-base. Simply press the U-base into the garbage can handle, and proceed as stated above, drilling down through the holes in the Street 90s that you created in Step 1.

Step B - Thread the bolts up from the bottom of the handle with the 5/16 washers on the bottom of the handle (between the bolt head and the can handle). The bolts should pass through the can handle and the U-base, and protrude into the slip cavity of the Street 90s.

Step C: Place the 1/4 washer down into the slip cavity of the U-bases onto the bolt and then use a 1/2 deep socket to tighten the locking nuts down onto the threads. If your hole in your Street 90s are not centered correctly, you can make adjustments by running your 5/16 drill up and down through the hole, pressing the bit to the side of the Street 90 in the direction the hole needs to widen to (or use a rat-tail file to open the hole a little).

Step 3: Cut PVC Pipe to Length

Two 10' lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe was needed to make the following cuts:

  • 4 - 22" pieces
  • 2 - 9" pieces
  • 2 - 4" pieces (approximately - see below)
  • 1 - 24" pieces

Note: these were the sizes that worked on a 44 gallon can. A 55 gallon can would probably need these lengths adjusted, particularly the top 24" piece. The four 22" pieces are the upright poles and need to be kept somewhat long so the garbage bag liner can be removed without interfering with the sign. The 4" pieces may need to be adjusted, depending on the length of your garbage can handle. To adjust, once you have installed your U-base, measure how wide it is between the two slip joints of the Street 90's, then adjust the 4" piece accordingly so the side mounting poles stay parallel (see image).


Step 4: Assemble the Sign Posts

During assembly, a small hammer is useful to seat the pipe sections into the joints. You do not need to glue this together.

Step A: Slide the 22" poles down into the slip joints of the Street 90 of the U-base.

Step B: Attach the two Tees on the back two vertical poles, and the 3-way to the front poles, tying them together with the 4" PVC pieces. This is where you might need to adjust the 4" pieces to make the 22" poles parallel (see Step 3)

Step C: Install the lower 24" horizontal cross pole into the remaining slip joint of the 3-way.

Step D: Install the 9" extensions into the Tee's and then top the extensions with the two 90s.

Step E: Install the top 24" horizontal cross pole between the two 90s.

Step F: Push or tap all the joints together so they are tight. Glue is not necessary as these slip joints are pretty tight.

Step 5: Attach the Sign Backing

The sign backing material I used was Solex greenhouse panel material. This is 3-6 ml thick polycarbonate sheeting that is easily cut with a razor knife. I just had some around and it was easy to cut into the one 24"X12" main sign backing pieces and the two 18"X6" side pieces. Plastic lawn signs would work just fine for this project. I ended up having decals printed in 24"X12" and 6"X18" sizes that were transferred to the backing material. You could have your signs printed directly on the backing materials, much like lawn sins are printed.

At first I used velcro to attach the backing material to the sign frame, and that worked fine. But, because this is for a middle school, I wanted the sign to be permanently attached to the frame. I ended up using six 1/8" long (1/2") pop rivets. For the main sign I drilled three holes along the top and three along the bottom backing material into the horizontal PVC pipe. Used a 1/8" washer with the rivet and popped the rivet directly into the PVC. For the side signs I drilled four holes in the corners through the backing material into the PVC. Seems to be holding great. (Note: I found not all rivets are the same. The Arrow brand from the local hardware store worked great while a brand I bought online failed to properly mushroom and hold in the PVC.)

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