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Tackling contaminated recyclables in bustling Bondi

In 2015/16 there were more than 20 million visitors to Bondi Beach. As one of the most popular beach- side regions in Australia, there is a constant flow of people moving to the area for several months before moving on to the next sandy spot.


The Waverley Council, which covers Bondi Beach, estimates that there are more than 5,000 Airbnb listings in its jurisdiction, and real estate agents offer brief six-month lease agreements due to the quick turnaround of residents.

More than 80 per cent of Waverley’s population reside in Multi-Unit Dwellings (MUDs). This can cause issues with waste management, as people who don’t live in the area permanently become complacent or are unaware of the services provided in the area, according to Waverley Council.

Higher density properties typically experience higher than average contamination of recycling streams in the area – a challenge that the council has been combating.

Waverley Council sustainable waste manager Beth Kasumovic said that in 2014, the council conducted a broad survey with community members that reside in apartments.

“Through that survey and site inspections, we learnt that residents felt it was someone else’s responsibility to take care of the bins and ensure proper waste disposal.

We also learnt that residents had difficulties accessing their bin rooms due to poor lighting, constrained space, or excess waste issues.”

The council addressed many of these barriers to recycling through its Recycling Improvement Program.

The project was undertaken in several different stages. Data on MUDs was gathered to identify those that have repeated incidents of contaminated kerbside recycling. Those were selected to include in the Recycling Improvement Program. These properties included 77 buildings (2038 units).

Additionally, the council engaged a variety of key stakeholders as part of the program, including strata and property managers, representing more than 200 buildings in the Waverley area. And, through consultation, numerous resources were developed using real images of items, text, and bright colours that matched the Australian Standards for kerbside bins to provide clear guidance on how to dispose of the various items.

“The outcomes of the bin room inspections identified improvements for bin room areas including lighting, positioning of bins, and bin replacements or repairs, and ensuring accurate bin allocation was present,” Kasumovic said.

“Council provided the recommendations to the property managers for consideration and repaired or replaced all damaged bins, and rectified bin allocation errors. Additionally, the new bin bay room signage and bin signage provided clear imagery of what goes in which bin.”

In order to ensure that visitors are engaged with council communications, the council liaises with property managers and real estate agents who help by reaching out to tenants, including short-term stayers.

Further to this, Waverley Council plans to provide additional education and communication to visitors and short-term stayers in 2020, through its partnership with Airbnb and real estate agents, Kasumovic explained.

“We had the biggest successes when we found stakeholders with similar goals – to improve waste management at their buildings and reduce contamination. By building partnerships with key stakeholders like property managers, strata managers, and real estate agents we are more successful.”

Waverley Council initiated the Recycling Improvement Program in December 2018 and following the successful reduction of contamination, the program continues to be rolled out across the Waverley local government area.

By the end of June 2019, the council achieved the following recycling improvement outcomes at its targeted MUD properties:
• 51 per cent decrease in contamination of the yellow bin for container recycling;
• 47 per cent decrease in contamination of the blue bin for paper and cardboard recycling; • 190 bin improvements (replacements/repairs);
• 33 requests for Waste Strata Bylaw templates;
• 45 additional strata managers have partnered with council; and
• All buildings received new signage with bin bay signage placed on walls.

“Our kerbside recycling processing contractor provides reports regarding the quality of the material recovered. The aggregated contamination rate in the last financial year, as reported by our recycling processing contractor was 6.87 per cent, which is quite low,” Kasumovic said.

“We are continuing to expand on our Recycling Improvement Program to all apartments with 20-plus units. We have plans to conduct regular bin inspections across council to monitor contamination and identify trends, such as problem sites that require action, and report back to the community regarding their progress towards recycling improvement,” she explained.

The council offers a variety of options for its community to dispose of waste correctly and reduce the likelihood of items ending up in the recycling bin. It has small recycling drop off locations for household batteries, e-waste and printer cartridge drop-offs at its library and customer service centre, and large recycling drop off events for e-waste, globes, batteries, and xrays.

Waverley Council won the Outstanding WARR Project: Metro award at the 2019 WARR (Waste and Resource Recovery) Awards.