A government department paid an extra £32,000 for the "executive" range of recycling waste bins to impress visitors, an internal report reveals.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs bought the "aesthetically pleasing" range at a cost of £148 each - instead of the standard wheelie bins at £57 each.
The expensive bins would project a more "professional" image at Defra's London HQ, says the report.
Defra says the cost was justified.
The 2007 report, which has been deposited in the House of Commons library, argues the case for getting rid of bins beneath civil servants' desks in favour of centralised "recycling stations" on every floor.
Going binless would help the environment, the report argues, and lower the department's "carbon footprint".
It would also save on sacks, bin liners and labour costs - with cleaners spending 13 hours less each week removing bins from under individual desks, adding up to an estimated annual saving of £4,968 across the department's six London offices. The report estimates it would take 5.86 years to pay back the cost of the executive bins, compared with 2.09 years for the wheelie bin option.
The report admits the same benefits could be achieved with standard wheelie bins, at a total cost of £18,182 for 146, but recommends buying the "executive" model, with specially moulded lids, at total cost of £51,1182, because they look better.
"The Executive bins are specifically built for an office environment and are aesthetically pleasing, but cost £32,273 more than the slightly larger and more cumbersome adapted Wheely bin version, which offers a budget option for delivery of this project," says the report.
It adds: "Choosing the Executive bin option would maintain the professional office environment that Defra look to maintain throughout their estate, especially in their HQ buildings to which many important visitors come."
In conclusion, it argues that moving to a binless office with recycling stations would help Defra achieve its aim of being a "trail blazer" for other departments on meeting recycling targets: "Implementing this proposal would result in Defra hitting their Government Estate recycling target 12 years early and so living this aspiration."
Defra said its decision to purchase Executive bins instead of Wheelie bins had been justified on both cost and environmental grounds.
A spokeswoman said: "Following proposals outlined in the 'Bin the Bin' report Defra opted to introduce binless offices and increase the use of recycling stations.
"After careful consideration we chose to purchase large executive recycle bins that are specifically built for use in an office environment for use in recycling stations. This was a one off cost as the bins are extremely robust and three years later they are still as good as new.
"These stations have made it easier for staff to recycle more and waste less."
She said the "bin the bin" report was "drafted onsite by our facilities team at no extra cost to the department".