Blog 3: What's in our wheelie bins?

About the Research

Online research on key Australian waste industry topics was conducted by Mandalay Technologies with over 1,500 Australian residents to create the Mandalay 2020 Waste Report. A portion of the data within this report has been interpreted in this blog. For even more insights, download a copy of the full Mandalay 2020 Waste Report.

What’s in our Wheelie bins?

How full are people’s wheelie bins on bin day? And, how do they compare to their neighbours? Getting an idea of how full our wheelie bins are and how much waste we generate compared to our neighbours is a good place to start to better understand how much waste is being disposed of at the household level and how it is being disposed of. Data insights gathered through this research will be a helpful tool for you and your local council to gauge how much waste Australians generate on average, the type of waste they generate and whether current capacity is generally enough for the waste being generated.

What does the data tell us?

Waste Collection Capacity

Participants were asked about how full their wheelie bins were on an average collection week which included household waste across the general, recycling and green waste streams.

  • Around one-third of residents reported a full wheelie bin for their household on collection day – with 31% reporting full wheelie bins for general waste or red top bins, 34% reporting full wheelie bins for recycling or yellow top bins and 30% reporting full wheelie bins for green waste or green top bins.
  • Only a small percentage of participants reported overflowing wheelie bins and this included 4% for general waste, 7% for recycling and 5% for green waste.
  • Young families were more likely to have full or overflowing bins compared to other household types (i.e., 43% for general, 44% for recycling) while single and/or couple households were more likely to have wheelie bins that are one half, one quarter or less full.
  • Out of all three waste types, recycling bins were found to be the fullest across all household and location types.
  • Rural residents were more likely to have less waste than metro and regional residents and they were also more likely to have more green waste.

Wheelie bin fullness in an average collection week

Comparison of Household Waste and Recycling

Participants were also asked about their perceptions when it comes to how full their bins are compared to others in their neighbourhood.

  • 80% of residents believe they dispose of the same amount, a little less, or much less, compared to other households in their neighbourhood.
  • 80% of residents believe they put as much, a little more, or much more recycling out for collection as others in their neighbourhood.
  • 66% of residents believe they put the same or more green waste into their green bin.
  • Single and couple households, as well as rural residents, were more likely to report disposing of less waste than others.
  • Adult families were more likely to report disposing of a lot more (41%) or a little more (30%) recycling than others.

Wheelie bin fullness comparison to neighbourhood average

What can we learn from the data?

Reducing the adverse impacts of waste on the environment requires the collective efforts of governments, industry, businesses, communities and individuals. One of the key takeaways we can glean from this research is that individuals and households across the communities we surveyed are making a concerted effort to recycle materials and dispose of waste appropriately (i.e., using the three bins). For example, the data tells us recycling bins were fuller across the board with most residents utilising this service and other services.

While this may suggest a need to increase capacity, whether this be increasing the frequency of collections or wheelie bin size for recycling, another view may be taken with regard to the need for a greater focus on waste avoidance and reduction (i.e., to reduce the need for wheelie bin services). The waste hierarchy – prioritising the avoidance or reduction of waste as the highest order priority – guides the strategic directions of many governments and some have even legislated it.

With over half of the participants surveyed reporting wheelie bins that were full or three-quarters full, it is evident that there remain opportunities to expand and enhance targeted waste reduction initiatives and education campaigns focused on reducing waste generated in the first place.

As the data tells us, household demographics also weigh significantly on wheelie bin fullness – and this is particularly important to note for those local councils that already invest significant resources to deliver education campaigns to reduce waste generation. While the data clearly points to the types of households that will likely require more targeted communication and engagement, it only provides a median or average that we can use to make generalisations about individual and community behaviours.

Personalised data, both its collection and use, to increase awareness around behaviour is becoming increasingly critical to shifting community attitudes successfully. It has the potential to not only enable data-driven analysis and decision making, but also support more empowered behaviour change for residents and the delivery of tailored waste education, programs and services.

For those councils that are looking for even more precise date around resident behaviours, utilising the power of technology to build more precise behaviour data will enable increasingly personalised services to residents and target segments within their communities. The criticality of understanding your residents, understanding their behaviours and supporting their decision making at an individual level, to work towards better outcomes for our communities, cannot be underestimated.

Want access to even more statistics and insights on awareness and behaviours towards waste and recycling in Australia?
Download a free copy of Mandalay’s 2020 Waste Report here.


Resident Waste Insights - Part 2

Read Part 2 within the Resident Waste Insights Series – Awareness and Usage of Waste Services.

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