Are you using your bins properly? Possibly not.

How to correctly dispose of waste in your kerbside recycle bins in the City of Greater Bendigo

Have you read my 5 ideas for Zero Waste New Year’s Resolutions blog post? If not, click here for some background to this post.

This blog post focuses on our first suggestion for a New Year’s resolution;
Correctly dispose of waste in your kerbside recycle bins.

To ‘Go Zero Waste’ in the true sense of the term means to avoid waste as much as possible – that is to have little that needs to go in your bins. Doing this takes time and planning – it would be very difficult to cut out all waste cold turkey. Going full Zero Waste may not be a long term goal for everyone, but if you’re reading this then I’m going to assume that waste reduction is something you’re interested in. One approach to reducing your waste is to ensure that the waste you do have is managed properly. This allows you to look critically at your waste to identify what you can eliminate or reduce.

This blog post will have two sources of information; the first being what the City of Greater Bendigo recommends for domestic waste management, and the second being some additional recommendations from us to help you further reduce what you send to landfill.

City of Greater Bendigo resources for sorting household waste

Despite having a three bin system for managing household waste, the City of Greater Bendigo fell in the bottom 50 percent of local governments for effective management of waste. Further to this, the council has stated that “Kerbside bin audits of local waste and recycling bins have shown that residents are still sending valuable recyclables straight to landfill by placing many items that could be recycled into their waste bins”. Their audits indicated that 62% of household waste is being put in the wrong bin by Bendigo residents.

The council has launched a campaign called Sort it out before you throw it out! to clarify misconceptions, in particular those about recycling. What’s great is that this means they have created several resources and advertisements to guide residents in sorting their waste into the three types of kerbside bins. On their website are two key resources which could be printed and located near your inside bins as a starting point for correct disposal.

  1. A-Z Guide to Disposing of Waste (text based)
  2. Guide to the three bin organics, recycling and waste system (visuals with associated texts)

Our advice for diverting household waste from landfill

These council resources would be a good starting point, however some items can be disposed of more effectively than merely doing what the council allows. If you want to dispose of your waste in a way that sees little to no waste go to landfill then here is our  our advice for getting started:

Set up a system inside that separates your waste.

It’s great that in Bendigo we have three kerbside bins to separate our waste, but as the waste audit showed lots of recyclable and organic waste currently ends up in the general waste bin. We have found the best way to avoid this is to sort waste as soon as you dispose of it. This reduces the temptation to just throw everything in a bin because you can’t be bothered sorting it later as it can become both time consuming and messy. Think of a bag of takeaway in your car; it would probably have some organic (food scraps, napkins), recyclable (bottle) and general waste (straw, plastic cutlery) in it but if it’s in a bag then it’s a lot easier to just throw it all in the general waste bin right? That concept applies to waste inside your house too.

We have five ‘bins’ in our kitchen for separating waste. You might not need/want to have five, or you might find you need more than five. The point of this isn’t for me to tell you how good we are at managing waste, because we still have a long way to go on our own Zero Waste journey. The point of me sharing this is to give you an idea of how waste can managed further than the three bins the council provides.

1. Organics (council provided bench top caddy)IMG_20180102_232337

This is our only wet bin. We use the compostable liners provided by the council. Pretty much any waste that is wet goes in this bin plus some dry waste as well. We follow the council’s recommendations for what to put in it. For us this includes food scraps, bones, hair, vacuum dust, facial tissues, bamboo toothbrushes and small paper/cardboard scraps.

*A few explanations: Facial tissues should not be flushed down the toilet as they can clog pipes so the Organics is the best option. The bristles on our bamboo toothbrushes are not bamboo or compostable so we cut them off and put them in our landfill bin. Small paper/cardboard scraps get lost during sorting at recycling facilities and end up in landfill so they’re better off in the Organics bin.

2. Recycling (plastic tub from before we went ZW)IMG_20180102_233026

This is a dry bin except for the minor food remnants left on the items. We follow the council’s recommendations on what to put in the bin.

*It’s worth noting that recyclables do not need to be washed before going in the bin other than to scrape out large amounts of food. Washing recyclables is a wasteful practice as they get commercially washed at recycling facilities so it becomes double handling and a waste of water.

3. Foil (Thermos jar that we don’t use often)IMG_20180102_233245

This is a dry ‘bin’. We accumulate some foil when we purchase sour cream, dips, yoghurt and chocolate. We rinse the foil, dry it and put it in this until it is full and then we scrunch it together to a ball at least the size of a golf ball. It takes us a long time to accumulate the foil but once we have enough we put it in the recycling bin.

*Small pieces of foil get lost during sorting at recycling facilities and end up in landfill so it’s important that you scrunch loose pieces into a larger ball to ensure it is recycled.

4. Soft plastics (pedal bin from before we went ZW)IMG_20180102_232927

This is a dry bin. Anything that is plastic and can be scrunched into a ball goes in this bin. We rinse and dry any heavily soiled soft plastics before putting them in this bin to reduce contamination. When full, we take the soft plastics to our local supermarket for recycling. I’ll give more details about this bin in a post about soft plastic recycling tomorrow.

*If you want to read more now then head to the Redcycle website.

5. Landfill (bench top bin from before we went ZW)IMG_20180102_232538

This is a dry bin. We do not have a liner for it because we do not put any wet waste in this bin. This will not be possible for everyone right away – if you use disposable nappies or menstrual products then your landfill bin will be a wet bin and will require a liner of some sort. I’d recommend a compostable liner over a plastic one. Plastic bags break down into microplastics, even most biodegradable bags do this. Microplastics are harmful to marine life. A truly compostable bag should not cause these issues.

Our ‘bins’

We included pictures of the ‘bins’ we use to demonstrate that you don’t need to go buy five new matching bins (although we totally understand the temptation). Most households already have the types of bins I’ve shown you but instead of them being in one place they are spread out across the house (bathrooms, toilets, offices etc). Collect them all up and create a waste station in a central location. If aesthetics are a concern for you, consider putting your ‘dry’ bins in cupboards out of sight and only leaving your ‘wet’ bins out. Dry bins shouldn’t smell if you are separating your waste correctly.

A final note about diverting waste from landfill… The City of Greater Bendigo’s A-Z Guide to Disposing of Waste highlights a lot of waste items that should NOT go in any of the kerbside bins. Take note of the pink, purple, blue and grey coded items when looking at the guide and refer to the legend at the bottom for how to correctly dispose of those items.

*We’ve written this post with a focus on this three bin system, however we understand that not all residents in the City of Greater Bendigo have an Organics bin, and that many other councils do not have this service either. We’d be happy to chat with anyone about waste reduction so find us on Facebook, visit our Contact page or send us an email at bendigozerowaste@gmail.com

3 comments

    • Hi! There are a few options depending on your location. Aldi supermarkets have collections points in their stores and most waste management centre will accept them for recycling as well. In Bendigo, you can drop them off at one of the City of Greater Bendigo Waste Transfer Stations or at the Eaglehawk Eco Centre.
      recyclingnearyou.com.au is a great website which identifies recycling options for different materials across Australia so if you’re not in Bendigo then you could check on there for your nearest recycling option for batteries 🙂

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