As a council of the Halve Waste initiative, AlburyCity Council is leading by example and supporting the Halve Waste initiative through the development and delivery of the “Waist Project” aimed at reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Albury City Council – the Importance of Reducing Waste to Landfill

How did the “Waist Project” come about?

In August 2018, as one of the Halve Waste Councils, Albury City Council set about changing the way their waste was managed at their administration building in Kiewa Street. The administration building generates various types of wastes, (including paper, cardboard, food, paper towel, general rubbish, e-waste and more) and it was decided to improve waste minimisation practices by introducing a centralised bin system through a project called “The Waist” project.

What was the administration building’s waste like prior to before starting the project?

Prior to the centralised system, each workstation had an under desk bin divided into general waste (with a plastic liner) on top and recycling bin underneath (271 bins in total). Cleaners would collect this waste daily, which annually meant that 67,000+ plastic liners full of rubbish would be headed to the landfill! The rest of the building also needed a fresh, more effective system so bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, meeting rooms and basement bins were all considered and included in the rollout.

Tell us about the goals you set for introducing a centralised bin system in the workplace.

A committee was formed to help decide what Council wanted to get out of changing from under desk bins to a centralised waste system and it was agreed that the centralised waste system would aim to achieve the following goals:

  • Introduce an effective recycling and reuse system whilst reducing costs, reducing plastic use and establishing effective recycling options for products generated by the administration building;
  • Support Move More and Sit Less program through the introduction of an improved waste management system; and
  • Lead by example by supporting the Halve Waste initiative, Councils waste reduction campaign, designed to engage with all sectors of the community to reduce waste and increase recycling.

Introducing a new system to the workplace can be challenging. How did you go about implementing the new system?

The implementation took place in two phases. The first phase involved a four-week trial on the second floor of the administration building. This included the purchase of the new bin infrastructure and designated locations for the new bin system and then the removal of all under desk bins. The committee prepared a presentation, a fact sheet and a floor plan showing the new waste stations, which was presented to staff before the trial was rolled out.

The next stage (phase 2) was to introduce the system across the whole building. This included removal of the under desk bins at all work stations and centrally locate waste stations on each level (one or two stations per level). This stage also included the improved waste management systems in the kitchens, bathroom and other council rooms within the administration building. Each floor had one or two “waste champions” who could help answer waste related questions and assist staff in knowing the correct bin to use when disposing of their waste.

Were there any barriers you identified and how did you go about addressing these to ensure the project was a success?

Council recognised for this program to succeed, you need to identify and address potential barriers this included;
  • Management support – system is only successful if this is supported from above
  • Staff Training – sufficient education/information needs to be adequate otherwise this leads to poor outcomes and in some cases hostility for staff
  • Staff Motivation – staff need information about the positive financial and environmental benefits to be motivated about the changes
  • Location of Bins – maximise the correct separation of waste and recycling, of which the centralised systems need to be near each other
  • Signage – selecting clear and concise messaging minimises confusion and influences behaviour change.

How has introducing the centralised bin system improved waste practices for the Council?

The costs for the administration building to manage general waste, recycling and organics have seen a reduction of 80% on disposal costs. The administration building previously had 271 bins with plastic liners, meaning that annually, over 67,000 liners with rubbish were sent to landfill. Now there are only 17 bins in the whole building with plastic liners, most of which only get replaced once a week. That is not only a massive cost savings but also a huge amount of waste being diverted from landfill.

The introduction of organics bin into all kitchens and bathrooms has meant that all of the food, tissue and paper towel waste that was filling rubbish bins is now also being diverted from landfill and saving Council disposal costs.

Paper which currently accounts for 90% of Council’s waste was previously being recycled through the MRF however since being separated from the other waste, it is now going directly to a local paper mill for recycling.

Reduce, reuse, recycle is everyone’s responsibility. How has your workplace embraced it?

Staff have led many of the changes and helped make management and others aware of what we could be doing differently. They have often provided both the initiative and the solution and are completely on board when the infrastructure is provided. We are proud of our culture and ethos of wanting to be sustainable as possible.

Lastly, what other benefits have been seen since the implementation of the centralised bin system?

Employee knowledge around waste, recycling and organics has increased, which not only helps them with separating their waste at work but also with their waste separation at home. The separation of product is growing every day, with staff asking waste champions “what goes where” if they are unsure of where their waste should go.

There has been an increase in movement from staff throughout the day, with staff using coffee and meal breaks to utilise the waste stations rather

 

than staying sitting at their desk. 50% of staff reported that they feel as though they are moving more which not only has an impact on their physical health but also on their mental health.

The reduction of bins also means a reduction of manual labour for the cleaners. Manual handling injuries are the most common work-related condition in Australia so the introduction of the new Waste Stations has meant a huge reduction in the repetitive bending movement 271+ times a day.

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