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16 March 2020

New Bin on the Block

Victoria’s New Four-Bin System

The Victorian Government is rolling out a four-bin kerbside waste and recycling system across the state from 2021. This is part of a $129 million overhaul of the State’s struggling recycling industry, including a container deposit scheme and the establishment of a state waste authority.

Each Victorian household will receive an additional purple bin for glass recyclables. The resulting four-bin system will be as follows:

  • Yellow bin – plastic, paper, cardboard and metal recyclables
  • Green bin – food and garden waste
  • Purple bin – glass recyclables
  • Red bin – residual waste

The new system will be gradually implemented across 46 Councils over the next 10 years, with the change happening sooner in Councils already trialling the system, such as Yarra and Hobsons Bay.

The Purpose

Separating glass from the current commingled recycling stream will ensure more recyclable material is recovered and recycled. When glass is placed within a commingled recycling bin containing paper, cardboard and plastic recyclables, broken glass fragments often become embedded in the other materials which reduces the recyclability of both the glass and the other materials. A separate bin for glass will also reduce the contamination rate within the commingled recycling bin, improving the quality for end-users of the recycled material.

Food waste in landfill sites is currently a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Encouraging Victorians to place food waste in their green bin could aid in the recovery of up to 650,000 tonnes of organic waste sent to landfill each year. The recovered nutrient-rich material can instead be used productively for compost within communities and as a source of energy in waste-to-energy plants.

The Issues

How will existing residential properties accommodate these additional bins?

Many bin storage areas in townhouse and multi-unit developments have been designed to accommodate two to three streams of waste (garbage, recycling and green waste). If additional streams are added to the mix, Owners Corporations and residents may struggle to find the room required for these bins. What happens then? Will these developments need to make the switch from municipal to private waste collection?

Further to this, what happens to developments that have existing waste chute systems? Most chute systems in residential developments only have separate intakes for garbage and recycling – if glass and food waste are to be separated, how will they be disposed of? Residents may be forced to manually transfer their glass waste and food scraps down to the bins at the base of their building.

How will all these bins fit along the kerb on collection days?

If collection days are to remain the same, more bins will need to be placed out on the kerb for collection. Many properties have a limited kerbside frontage for the placement of bins. This may lead to bins being placed illegally across driveways or on roads. To tackle this issue, Councils may need to consider additional collection days – but what effect will this have on our municipal collection service fees? What will Councils do with the collected food waste?

There are currently limited facilities in Victoria for processing food waste. If Councils start collecting food waste from every household, new facilities will need be developed to ensure that the food waste can be used to benefit communities, such as waste to energy plants and large composting sites.

How will the Victorian Government educate the public?

While the addition of a third and fourth bin for food waste and glass recyclables will help to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and ensure that more recyclable material is recovered, residents will need to be properly educated to ensure that they are recycling correctly. Many Victorians still fail to adhere to basic recycling practices and continue to place soft plastics and contaminated recyclables into their yellow bins. If we still can’t get the current two-bin system right, how will the new four-bin system be any different? The Victorian Government and Councils will need to implement a comprehensive, coordinated and consistent education program informing the public about the importance of the new waste and recycling system, to get community buy-in and to ensure that any ‘grey areas’ surrounding proper household recycling practices are removed.

The Outlook

The Victorian Government’s new waste and recycling initiative is a step in the right direction amid the State’s current recycling crisis. The introduction of a four-bin kerbside system will see reduced contamination rates, increased recyclability of plastic, paper/cardboard and glass material, as well as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions generated by food scraps sent to landfill. Although this all sounds good in theory, the Government will need to work effectively with Councils and the public to ensure that the proposed system works effectively in practice. Spatial constraints within existing properties, limited kerbside frontage, organics processing facilities and education regarding correct recycling practices are just a few key issues that will need to be considered to ensure a successful roll-out of the new four-bin system.


Author: Mitch Fairlie, Environmental Consultant

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