Govbins: discover the Instagram account about the UK’s wheelie bins

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Instagram can get pretty niche, but nothing can beat the #Govbins account, whose purpose is to record the designs of the UK's wheelie bins. Here, we talk to its founder, Harry Trimble about bin design, council crests and why Liverpool’s bins are purple.
 
Hi Harry! How did the er… ‘Binstagram’ start?
Ha! Binstagram’ – that’s the best bins pun yet! #Govbins started back in 2016. It didn’t have a name then. It was just an observation — bins look different, but the same in places. Different colours and graphics. Same size and shapes. Why this was I didn’t know, I just began taking photos. It was only on New Years Day last year, I began putting them online. Later I built govbins.uk. The Instagram is only two months old. 
 
This was when I worked in government as a designer. My then workmate Rob and I were travelling the country, testing new prototypes for GOV.UK. At the time, I was thinking a lot about visual consistency, infrastructure and design in the public sector. Otherwise would I have noticed #govbins? Maybe not. 
 
Do you travel especially to areas for their bins? 
It started off I would just photo the bins I happened to see. Then I got impatient. Now there’s increasingly more little detours and day trips, which my friends friends, family and workmates patiently let me drag them on. I once got a client to pull over on the side of the road, just so I could photograph a bin. I try average one bin a week.
 
I try avoid going on people’s property to take the photos. But something there’s no choice. This one time in Newcastle someone came out of their house. As soon as she realised I wasn’t doing something awful behind her car and showed her the website, she was pretty into it. It was like like “Don’t worry, I’m doing art.”
 
Are UK wheelie bins unique? Do other countries have them? 
Strangers have started sending me photos of wheelie bins. And not just from around the UK. Other countries; Canada, Portugal, Vietnam, Australia, Spain. Perhaps it’s time to take #govbins global? Who knows.
 
What council crests are your favourite?
I get this question a lot. Yet I struggle to answer it. I don’t have one favourite, however a couple stand out. Perth and Kinross’s bins have a double-headed eagle with a crown around its neck. This is so over the top. It looks like it belongs on a shield or a medieval flag, not a wheelie bin. The super minimal 'H' that Hertsmere puts on its bins could be mistaken for a new sportswear brand.
 
Do councils choose the bin colours? Is there any method to this?
They do. Liverpool, for example has purple bins. It’s a compromise between blue and red, the city’s football teams’ colours, so no one kicks off. I found out all this variety is due to over 400 local councils interpret rules. Namely this bit of law that councils have to collect your rubbish and this product standard for bins fitting onto rubbish trucks.
 
What are you bin goals now? 
I recently passed the 100 mark. But rather than a feeling of achievement, it dawned on me I’m only a quarter of the way done. If and when #govbins is done, maybe I’ll try to publish a book. People having been saying I should. Maybe they’re right. How do you get a book published? I wouldn’t know.
 
You can follow Govbins at instagram.com/govbins.uk







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