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Wot a Load of Rubbish!

Our two existing bins in their purpose-built bin space
In our shire (Baulkham Hills), we have all just received new bins. There is a teeny tiny one (just 140 litres) with a red lid for garbage, a normal-sized one (280 litres) for recycling and another 280 litre bin for'garden organics'/ (lawn clippings, wood, flowers, weeds, etc.) This replaces the system where we had 280 litres for recycled waste and 280 litres for general waste.

There are great things about them and bad things about them. The good thing is that it's great for encouraging less rubbish and so encourages people to buy products with less packaging. Also, a lot of garden waste that used to go to land fill will now be composted, saving land fill space.

However, each new bin uses loads of plastic, so imagine how much plastic has been used providing 3 new bins for each house in the whole shire! The Waste Management Co-ordinator for Baulkham Hills Shire Council says they did research and found that 50-80% of the bins in the Shire would need replacing as they were over their life expectancy and some were up to 20 years old. I'm sorry, but we cannot believe that only 2 bins in every 10 are not fit to use. We went around the streets and we saw only sound, useable bins. Our bins are 11 years old and in very good condition. We went to areas much older than our neighbourhood and their bins were also fine.

Our two new bins
There were 161, 068 people in the Shire in June 2005 (so it will be a lot more now). That means that if we say there's an average of 3 people in a family (and a lot of people will live alone or in couples of course) then that's nearly 54,000 households. That means: 108,000 new bins have just been supplied!!!!!!

The new bins look exactly the same, except the general rubbish bin is half the size and they have different coloured lids. We think they could have just had stickers for residents to apply to their existing bins and just get supplied with a new general rubbish bin.

The red topped garbage bins are excellent for people living alone, couples or a small family, but for a family like mine with 5 and sometimes 6 people in...I don't know how we are going to cope - and we've always been great recyclers and don't buy things with lots of packaging! We think that Council should have co-ordinated the size of bin to the size of family. It seems daft having the same size bin for one person as for 6! However, we may be surprised...we will let you know how we go.

The new system, from left; general waste, green waste, recycling
Also, where do we put all these bins? We now have 3 bins to find space for. I'm sure houses in the future will have space designed for them, but right now most houses struggle with a place to put the wheelie bin...which now just turned into 'wheelie bins; it's hard to find a solution to fit everyone.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for reducing waste that goes to land fill, but sometimes there are better ways that just throwing a lot of money at the problem. Like, garden waste...a fortnightly collection? I can't see every household having a full 280 litres of garden clippings every 14 days....especially not in winter and yet the collection will be every forthnight right through the year...madness! Collecting it though makes sense as it just produces more greenhouse gases when left to rot in landfill.

Don't forget there will now have to be an extra garbage run for each street...think of all the fossil fuel this will use driving those trucks around.

In the recycling bin leaflet that came with the bin, it clearly says that you can recycle all plastic containers. But, we know that you can only recycle containers made of plastic if they have either 1 - 6 in the triangle on the base of the container. Another thing is the plastic meat trays...there was nothing about not putting them in the recycling bin, but again, we know that the recyclers will not touch them.

See, it's all very complicated isn't it?

In Australia, we think we are pretty good at waste control, but let's take a look around other countries.

In Birmingham, England, waste is collected (no recycling other than newspaper) by putting your plastic rubbish bag at the top of your driveway where rubbish collectors come and throw the bag into the garbage truck (they call them 'dustvans'). These bags can rip and tear, therefore the entire contents of the bin bag is strewn across neighbour's lawns... Not happy Jan! Birmingham is now looking into a new system. It would be impossible for them to have automated trucks like us because the streets are narrow and have lots of cars parked there. Many other British Councils have glass recycling etc....but not Brum (what they call Birmingham as a nickname).
Rating: 4/10

In Tokyo, Japan, the waste is separated into 3 main groups; combustable (burnable), non combustable and recyclable. You have to take your waste to a certain drop-off point which is then picked up. The Japanese are VERY consciencious about their waste production and keeping their streets clean. However, it is being burned which could produce more CO2.
Rating: 8/10

In Switzerland, you have to buy the official bin bags for 2 Franc. The items you put in the garbage bin are restricted and are disposed of appropriately. Cans, plastic bottles and glass are brought to recycling bins in the villiage centre. Vegetable waste is composted which is then put on public grounds or is sold to the public. Paper and Cardboard is bundled.
When you want to dispose of e-waste (technology)such as a computer, you have to take it back to the same place you bought it and they have to dispose of it appropriately. There are lots of recyling and re-use shops and everyone is VERY VERY consciencious about waste. The streets in Zurich and Lucerne are so clean you could almost eat off them!
Rating: 11/10 - but minus a point for having plastic bags to put rubbish 10/10

Meanwhile, here in Baulkham Hills, we recycle recyclable plastics, aluminium cans, glass, paper and cartons. Our garden orgainics will be turned into mulch or compost, and our garbage is taken to Goulburn to a landfill site.
Rating: 8/10 but at a cost and a line of bins outside your house!

So now we know, we all have to be like the Swiss! (That doesn't mean we have to dress in dirndles and leiderhosen though.)
Tell us about your waste collection system.

dirndl - traditional Swiss/Austrian dress

By Imogen Wadlow

Thanks to:
Baulkham Hills Shire Council
Living Information, Japan, Maki is not a nameless cat (Makiko Itoh)

Dog: @Armin Weigal
Map japan: