What Do All These Colors Mean?


Deciphering the Colors

The colors of the dumpsters in the alleyways have a very specific and important meaning based on their color. This blog post will discuss what the alley dumpster colors mean. We will also explain why the various Refuse truck colors don’t matter.

Let’s Dig In!

  • Brown Dumpsters: trash only.
  • Green Waste Dumpsters: yard waste only. Yard waste includes: grass clippings, leaves, garden trimmings, small tree branches and twigs.
  • Blue Recycling Dumpsters: recycling only. The only items accepted in the Blue Bin are paper, flattened cardboard, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles and jars, metal food and beverage cans and food and beverage cartons.

When we don’t put items in the correct bin, it can lead to numerous problems down the line. You can read a few of our previous blog posts to learn more about why it’s important to put the correct materials in their corresponding dumpster in your alley or dropoff location.

But, Wait! There’s More!

While the dumpsters have specific meanings in regards to the materials that they accept, the Refuse truck colors do NOT. The Refuse division has trucks of all different colors, shapes and sizes. Since we have dumpsters, rollcarts and bulk pickup, not all of the trucks perform the same duties.

Why don’t the truck colors matter? 🧐

While the trucks are designed specifically to collect either rollcarts, dumpsters or bulk pickup, they are produced in a number of colors. The Refuse trucks run their routes collecting what is on their schedule that day, empty them at one of two transfer stations at a designated area depending on what materials they have. They make several runs to the transfer station emptying their cab. At the end of the day, the drivers take the trucks back to the garage, clean them out and perform standard maintenance checks.

What Does All This Mean?

The most important thing to remember when you are considering your waste disposal is that the dumpster colors have specific meanings and should only be used for the materials they collect. This rule also goes for the dropoff locations and the resident dump.

A blue refuse truck could be collecting trash one day and recycling the next day. An orange truck could collect yard waste one day and trash the next. Disposing of our waste responsibly at our rollcarts, dropoff locations and alley dumpsters helps our waste system run with less issues and contamination.


  • Emory Webre says:

    Why were the recycle dumpsters emptied twice in one week in the 6500 block of Winnebago/Winona when they weren’t even half full and some areas of the city can’t get their dumpsters emptied?

    • Samantha Villaire says:

      Hello. Unfortunately, we are not part of the operations or collection, we simply provide the outreach and education. You could call the Citizens’ Service Bureau at 314-622-4800 or the Refuse division at 314-647-3111.

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For details see the Refuse Division website: