Household waste bin audits reveal room for improvement

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Regular weekly, kerbside visual audits of general waste, recycling and organics bins by the City of Greater Bendigo have shown that while most households are good at sorting out their waste there is still room for improvement. Through the visual audits the City has found that some households still place recyclable items and organic material in their general waste bins and contaminate their recycling and organics bins with plastic bags.

Items such as plastic meat containers, dog food tins and garden waste are the main contaminants found in general waste bins while the main contaminants placed in the recycle bin include polystyrene, soft plastics and recyclable items that have been placed in plastic bags. The main contaminants in the organics bin include plastic bottles, food packaging and organics waste wrapped in plastic bags instead of the green caddy liners which are made from corn starch and vegetable oil that are supplied to each property by the City.

City of Greater Bendigo Resource Recovery and Education Manager Brooke Pearce said bin audits are a standard practice by many councils to assess how residents are going with their recycling and City staff conduct kerbside audits in random suburbs throughout Greater Bendigo up to two or three times each week.

“The City respects the privacy of the community and the audit is a visual inspection only. On average we audit about 100 bins each week. Sometimes an area is audited because our truck drivers have noticed contamination in the bins as they are emptied into the trucks,” Ms Pearce said.

“In addition to the audits, random checks are also undertaken on properties that have an exemption from the organic bin collections to ensure they are not disposing of organic material in their general waste bin. Residents with an organics exemption who are found to not be utilising their onsite management systems will have the organics bin and charge reinstated by the City.

“The City has made a strong commitment to educate residents about what they can put in their waste, recycling and organics bins. The audits help us to gain a clear understanding of the types of things people are doing wrong so we can use this information to develop targeted messages to educate the community in the future.

“Everyone wins when bin contamination is kept to a minimum because it reduces the City’s rising environmental and financial costs. The audits are not about taking a heavy handed approach – it’s about educating our residents how to properly sort their waste before they throw it out.

“Our audit staff can often be shocked at the level of contamination from some properties. If during an audit we do notice that the wrong things have been placed in the wrong bins our staff will leave a tag on the bin saying what they noticed in the bin and send a letter informing the resident of the importance of sorting waste properly. A further audit of the bin will be carried out at a later date.

“We also leave a special tag on bins that have been well sorted, to let the householder know that they are doing a great job.”

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith said Victorian households and businesses generate over 11 million tonnes of waste each year with about 70 per cent (or 7.7 million tonnes) diverted away from landfill and bin audits are an easy and cost-effective way to gauge how we are tracking.

“Fear mongering and fuelling the fire around this topic is not constructive and does a disservice to the community and may ultimately drive costs up for residents,” Mr Smith said.

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