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The impact of 240L mobile rubbish bins on recycling activity amongst householders in the City of Stirling

Gray, Sharon Nicole (1989) The impact of 240L mobile rubbish bins on recycling activity amongst householders in the City of Stirling. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Landfill conservation has been gaining increasing priority in solid waste management, due to the transition from the use of local tip sites to more distantly located sites. The waste transfer facilities and haulage distances involved are causing waste disposal costs to increase from around $12 per tonne to $25 - $30 per tonne (Webb, 1988; Bell, 1988; Rodenburg, 1988).

Waste reduction by source separation recycling has begun to be perceived as an effective means of landfill conservation, and has been implemented in local authorities throughout Australia (AEC, 1987). The introduction of 240L mobile bins to Australian households has however been criticised as removing the incentive to householders to recycle by providing bins that are large enough to accommodate all household waste.

The aim of the study was to locally determine the impact of the 240L bins on the degree of recycling undertaken by householders and to understand the factors influencing motivation to participate in the house to house recycling scheme. The general hypothesis tested was that a convenient house-to-house recycling scheme would counteract the disincentive created by the larger capacity bins to recycle.

The study has involved two methodologies: a waste volume and composition analysis of household rubbish to determine the changes caused by the introduction of mobile bins and a recycling scheme; and a questionnaire
survey to determine the changes in recycling routes for materials with and without a house to house collection service.

In the waste survey component of the Study, ten neighbourhoods were selected to represent a broad cross-section of socio-economic conditions within the City of Stirling, that had not yet received mobile bins or
recycling bags for the first survey. The second survey was conducted randomly in the same neighbourhoods 5 - 8 months subsequent to the distribution of the bins, allowing sufficient time for householders to become accustomed to the larger bin capacity. A time constraint in the study resulted in a winter-summer waste profile. In each survey 400 randomly selected bin samples were collected and individually weighed into 16 waste categories.

The questionnaire component involved random, door to door, personal interviews of householders. Time lapse since distribution of mobile bins and recycling bags was 3 - 4 weeks. The socio-economic conditions targeted for the survey were considered 'less than optimal' for recycling. Two zones of lower-middle socio-economic conditions were available for the before and after cases. An 'optimal' characterised survey zone with high socio-economic conditions was also included for comparison of recycling activity after the introduction of the mobile bins and recycling scheme with the 'less than optimal' zone.

The City of Stirling house to house glass and aluminium can recycling scheme commenced with the introduction of 240L mobile bins. The scheme involved distribution of recycling bags providing instruction for glass only on the exterior; a low intensity publicity campaign involving the recycling bags, stickers on mobile bin lids, and the separation rule indicated on mobile bin leaflets; and weekly collection, simultaneous with normal rubbish collection.

Additionally the influence of the mobile bins was able to be tested on a house to house paper recycling scheme which was already established in the area and operated by a recycling company. This scheme involved: no distribution of a recycling container; a low intensity publicity campaign consisting of half yearly letterbox drops of calenders with pick-up dates marked; and an ·irregular 4 - 6 weekly collection on days other than the
normal rubbish collection day.

After the 3 - 4 week time lapse, a greater degree of recycling activity was found in the zones with the mobile bins and recycling scheme, considering all available routes. House to house recycling constituted the major recycling route for all glass categories without a deposit value. The degree of recycling via other routes besides the recycling scheme did not differ significantly from the "before" bins case. This indicates that the short time lapse between the distribution of the mobile bins and recycling bags had generally not permitted those with already established recycling habits to alter to the more convenient recycling route made available.

Participation in the glass recycling scheme as expressed in interviews was higher in the 'optimal' zone with 67% participating, as compared to 32% in the 'less than optimal' zone.

Deterrent factors to using the glass and paper recycling schemes were consistent with previous findings, generally relating to convenience and reliability of the service. Insufficiently clear publicity was also found to be a limiting factor.

From the data collected in the two waste surveys, of the five heaviest waste categories (food, garden, paper, glass and plastics) only glass did not increase significantly in weight, after the bins and glass recycling scheme had been introduced. Cullet, which before the scheme was not commonly recycled, decreased significantly in weight in the second waste survey further indicating a positive influence of the recycling scheme. No change or a decrease in deposit bottles was consistently found in the 10 zones, indicating the effectiveness of the monetary incentive to recycle nullifying the convenience of the mobile bins.

In contrast to glass, newspaper waste increased in weight significantly, with increases consistent in the 10 zones. This indicates that the house to house paper collection service was comparatively insufficient in convenience, to compete with disposal in the large mobile rubbish bins.

Contrary to previous studies on the relationship between socio-economic level and recycling participation, there was no significant difference between the 'least optimal' or 'most optimal' waste survey zones in the glass, paper and aluminium waste categories. In both waste surveys there was only significant difference in the weight of beer bottles between the most and least optimal zones. A shorter term indication was provided by the questionnaire, in which significant differences were found between the 'optimal' higher socio-economic zone as compared to the lower socioeconomic zone.

Due to a relatively lower socio-economic representation in the "before" and "after" comparison in the questionnaire survey, and reduced cooperation of rubbish collectors by the second waste survey, scheme participation results should be considered as a modest indication of the recycling levels able to be achieved in the City of Stirling.

It has been found that the glass recycling scheme has countered the disincentive created by the larger capacity mobile bins to recycle in the short and medium terms.

The recycling scheme has provided a competitively convenient recycling route for glass despite deficiencies in the scheme.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Notes: A digital copy of this thesis is not available. Your library can request a copy from Murdoch University Library via Document Delivery. A fee applies to this service.
Supervisor(s): Ho, Goen
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