Why We Care About Litter

Originally Published By Waste Management Review

Source Separation Systems’ Peter Cruwys explains the key to reducing litter and optimising waste diversion in Australia.


On a sunny day in 2007, Peter Cruwys sat in a taxi, on route with his mates to Sydney’s iconic Royal Randwick Racecourse.

It was a time of reflection for Peter, who had just returned from a five-year stint in Dublin, Ireland, working as a national sales manager for Europe’s largest coffee and vending machine manufacturer. Facing an uncertain future, he was overcome by a moment of beauty as his taxi passed the picturesque Sydney Harbour Bridge on the Cahill Expressway.

It was then that Peter knew he was privileged to live in such a special part of the world. But Peter’s excitement soon dwindled upon seeing the boorish behaviour of racecourse revellers. As he looked on, Peter observed plastic champagne flutes being dropped on the ground with no regard for their end destination.

“It felt like there was just this subconscious ability to litter and it was just done so easily. No one thought about what they were doing or even bothered to look for a garbage bin, they were just dropping their waste onto the ground,” Peter explains.

“Europe was miles ahead at that time with regards to resource recovery, recycling and diversion. It seemed so easy over there and it was done almost automatically by everyone. We as a society were making it difficult for ourselves, as we just didn’t think it was as important as it should be.”

He notes that in the UK, residents are able to source separate waste into 11 different waste streams depending on the municipality, while Australia tends to rely heavily on materials recovery facilities to sort this out. The success of source separation results in cleaner recycling streams he explains, which means recycling becomes a higher valued business.   

Peter’s observations inspired him to offer a simpler solution to the waste industry. He sought about borrowing ideas from the US and UK to develop simple physical collection systems that would inspire consumers to do the right thing.

One of Peter’s first steps was to introduce a compostable bag and kitchen caddy to target food organics diversion in the domestic environment. His experiences overseas had taught him that colour coding and educational messages were key to targeting consumers.

Newcastle City Council's Bins

Newcastle City Council’s “Why we love Newcastle” slogan on its National Park Bins aims to reduce litter

In 2007, Source Separation Systems was launched at the Coffs Harbour Waste Conference, bringing an initial range of residential, commercial and public place source separation solutions to the local government market, including the Kitchen Caddy and Compost-A-Pak range of liners.

Ten years later, Source Separation Systems’ focus is still on innovation, as Peter works to introduce new systems to Australia and refresh their existing products, with the aim to ensure their best practice solutions meet their clients ever-changing needs.

Three years ago, Peter turned back to the Kitchen Caddy, looking to refresh a now established product. After discussions with many local government customers and focus groups and internal planning, the second generation Australian-made Kitchen Caddy was launched. In what the company believes was an industry first, an in-mould label allows councils to customise the lids to suit the organics they are targeting. Source Separation Systems designed the in-mould label akin to a marketing flyer, featuring full colour detail, customised logos and photos.

The resulting product improves on education – a key priority for Peter. Detailed messages are presented to the user every time they divert waste, which are then reinforced with full colour graphics, a change proving very beneficial in multicultural communities. In addition, the company also incorporated a rear mounting tab so the unit can be attached to a wall or under-sink door and venting channels, making it easier to remove the liner and waste.

Research supports the claim that simplicity and convenience influence recycling habits. A 2008 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) investigated influences of consumer behaviour and recycling, analysing numerous studies over the past few decades to gauge the trends. As early as 1993, a study by Judge and Becker, looked at 1000 homes in Minnesota, US, taking a random 20 per cent sample of participants and found convenience factors increased recycling, which comprised more frequent collection and lower sorting requirements. This included sorting recyclables into separate containers for glass, plastics, newspaper and metal or commingled.

Source Separation Systems also sought to design its products to meet the Australian Standard AS4123.7-2006, developed in 2006. The standard provides colour specification, markings and designation requirements for mobile waste containers in order to boost recycling outcomes. The standardised system is aided by the fact that the colours support educational messages run by local government authorities and are widely used in public domains. It was developed by the Waste Management Association of Australia in collaboration with its New Zealand counterpart. From its MultiSort Lid systems to National Park Bins, the Australian colours of red (waste) and yellow (recycling) used in Source Separation Systems products provide a key message to consumers, which is then reinforced by other design aspects such as apertures and signs.

Over the past 10 years, Source Separation Systems expanded its range of products across the commercial, hospital, campus and outdoors spaces. While there’s been numerous products rolled out, Peter says the National Park Range released in 2013 were one of the highlights.


Litter is expensive to manage and PricewaterhouseCoopers Packaging Cost Benefit Analysis 2011 report shows governments are spending up to $350 million each year to curb the problem.

The National Park Range, which houses 140 or 240-litre mobile garbage bins, was designed for municipalities to fully customise to suit their individual communities. From educational messages to historical photo collages, the bins aim to instil a sense of community and thus ensure waste is disposed of responsibly.

Peter’s decisions are backed by the literature, as the NSW Government report, Lessons from the litter-ature, A review of New South Wales and overseas litter research shows. The research found the more community involvement and social engagement there is, the greater the anti-litter strategy becomes. Furthermore, the amount of litter already in a space can be a powerful determinant of behaviour. Convenient placement of bins also has an effect, it notes.

Another key point the review identifies is the concept of place attachment. Psychologists describe the concept as an emotional attachment  to a location, with findings to suggest those who harbour higher levels of place dependence and identity are broadly connected to environmentally responsible behaviour. In other words, our association and desire for a place means we’re more likely to want to keep it clean.

NSW’s Newcastle City Council and Hornsby Shire Council took this approach in the design of their National Park Bins. In Newcastle, each recycling system displays local photos of the area and display messages such as “Why we love Newcastle”. Hornsby Shire Council conversely contains messages such as “Hey tosser, it’s a dirty look” which reinforces the impact of litter in the community.

“Because the National Park Bins are a relatively attractive looking bin, they’re also less likely to be vandalised,” Peter adds.

“We did a project with Great Lakes Council where they put the bins in a skate park and photographed the kids using it and put them on the side of the bins. The kids ended up cleaning up the skate park, picking up the litter and putting it back into the bins.”


The buzz about the lack of recyclability of coffee cups last year led to the development of the Coffee Cup Separation Station in August of last year. Our penchant for a morning coffee fix means that approximately three billion single-use coffee cups are sold in Australia each year, with most ending up in landfill, according to consumer group Choice. Source Separation Systems believes it’s largely due to the lack of recyclability behind the cup design of conventional systems, which is lined with a thin coating to make the paper waterproof. The small amount of plastic lined with paper on the outside means at this stage it is unable to pass through common recycling procedures. The Coffee Cup Separation Station forces consumers to separate their cup, liquid and lids, thus preventing contamination and ensuring the material travels to a recyclable destination.

Coffee Cup Separation Station

The Coffee Cup Separation Station

The Coffee Cup Separation Station has been designed for use in shopping centres and commercial offices so that when people are coming into those centres they’re actually thinking about what they’ve purchased,” Peter says.

“It looks like a massive coffee cup, and is designed to start the conversation about the lack of recyclability, as well as being a recycling bin for components where technology allows.”

While up to 60 bins have been deployed across centres across Australia, the next step is for industry to shore up the funds to invest in increasing dedicated coffee cup recycling infrastructure.

“ResourceCo is at the moment one company recycling the cups into briquettes in concrete cement kilns,” he says.

“We need to have a greater understanding of how to recycle these cups and more infrastructure. There are some states that have recycling abilities such as the ACT and Queensland.”

Peter hopes that there will be a further push towards industry-specific infrastructure in order to boost the commodity value of individual recycling streams, as a cleaner stream results in a higher valued product.

As Source Separation Systems waits for the market to expand, Peter attributes the success of the company in its ability to experiment and take bold risks.

When a business or government entity requests a commercial design, Source Separation Systems collaborates with its clients to offer an engaging solution in line with best practice waste diversion. Not every risk pays off, but when it does, the company is able to boost recycling outcomes.

“We’ve developed a number of projects solely because the customer requests it. If we think it’s a worthwhile project, we’ll take a gamble and bring it to market,” Peter says.


With a range of competitor source separation products out there, Peter sees the company’s unique selling point as its ability to offer a colourful, eye-capturing product with differing apertures.

He says that when it comes to bin design you have to consider apathetic consumer sentiment, with special considerations made in this area. For these reasons, Source Separation Systems restricts its recycling apertures, which aims to reduce contamination.


In a study published in the journal, Environment and Behaviour, It matters a hole lot, two sets of three bins were positioned in an academic building. One set had specialised container lids to correspond with trash, aluminium, glass and plastic and paper. The other contained no specialised containers at all. The study found the use of these specialised containers increased recycling by 34 per cent and reduced contaminants by 95 per cent.

One possibility identified is that recycling is regarded as a socially desirable practice and specialised lids implicitly remind individuals to comply with this norm.   

“If you’ve got apertures that are all exactly the same colour and size, and you’ve just got landfill or recycling text, you’re not really making people think,” Peter says.

“If you’re going to put recycling infrastructure in a public place, you’ve got to put a landfill bin next to it. Because otherwise, the recycling bin will become a landfill bin because it’s just convenient to dispose of it. As long as you make it easy for consumers as to what goes in each stream, you’re going to get success every time.”

In a twist of redemption, seven years later Peter returned to the same location where the idea for his business all started, but this time with a nobler purpose.

“Funnily enough, six years later we did all the bins for the Australian Turf Club, when they spent about $150 million rebuilding Randwick Racecourse,” he says.

“It was really rewarding to be back at Randwick, and see both the powerful difference our systems can make, and also the underlying change in Australia as so many of us move to embrace a more sustainable way of living. Now with a young family, it’s something I’m only becoming more passionate about.”

Posted in Co-Mingle Recyclables, Compostable Bags, Council, Dry Waste, In the home, In the public space, Litter, On the campus, Organic Waste, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The War on Waste in Schools

Did you tune into ABC’s latest ‘War on Waste’ program this week, and get inspired about the scale of change at Kiama High School?

The key to a successful recycling program like Kiama’s really is a passionate change leader!

War on Waste’s Craig Reucassel

Once inspired, implementation is most effective when you follow these really simple, best practice strategies, which research suggests will improve your participation and reduce contamination. We have detailed 6 key things to consider if you’re looking to transform your local school in the same way.

  1. Think carefully about your recycling bins.

It’s important you choose bins which are convenient to use, and importantly hold the right capacity! Similarly, the bins should always be placed in a station of three in busy thoroughfares, and areas in which waste is generated. If only one type of bin is available in a location, students will use that for everything.

Equally important, if one of your bins fills up too quickly, you will find that all the streams will become mixed as users throw the recyclables anywhere. This behaviour will then be more likely to continue next time they visit the station, even if there is capacity in the right bin.

Not to mention that you need to keep the bins looking loved (or at least neat and clean). If your station instead looks like a mess people will just add to that mess and contaminate your bins. It’s the same principle with litter. Once people perceive an area has been already littered, the likelihood that they will also litter increases dramatically.

Lunchtime at Kiama High School

To check your volumes requirements, short of a full audit, just look at your existing waste collection volumes before pick up, estimate the percentage of each waste category from a review of each bin, build in some extra capacity and use that to estimate your needs.

The Kiama team choose standard 240 Litre Mobile Garbage Bins MGB for their stations, a great cost-effective option for schools. Alternatives to consider would include step-on mechanisms to limit student’s hesitation in lifting lids on multiple bins, particularly if they are perceived as dirty, and bins with differentiated apertures.

  1. Colour code in Australian Standards and use customised apertures where possible.

Making the bins look differentiated at a glance through colours and shapes, reinforced that users need to make a deliberate choice.

Mirroring the Australian standard colours for Landfill (Red), Recycling (Yellow), and Organics (Green) also means that the educational messages about recycling that occur out of the school in public places and through curb-side recycling, reinforce your school’s recycling program. Whilst lid colours are ideal for this, if your budget doesn’t allow, an alcove with bright paint on the ground and walls can also suffice!

  1. Explain the ‘Why’ and get people engaged.

If you don’t have Craig Reuchassal available for your school, that doesn’t mean you can’t build on the #Waronwasteau momentum. There are some really powerful clips from the show, and some great statistics which you can share during your communications.

Similarly aim to run parallel programs such as a nude food day like Kiama’s ‘Trash Free Thursday’, or a recycled sculpture competition, or if you are really enthusiastic, start a garden in which you can compost some of the food waste, to then grow new food. Gardening and composting is a powerful way to demonstrate the principles of closed loop recycling.

  1. Make it convenient for everyone, not just those using the bins!

You may have noticed the bright green Compost-A-Pak bin liners in the green bins. These liners are Australian Certified compostable, so they can be thrown out with the food waste, and composted. This ensures bins stay clean and odour free, and so the cleaners do not have to clean out the food waste bins every few days. Steps like this which improve convenience end to end ensure everyone can embrace the changes.

Compostable Bags

  1. Review your purchasing processes, particularly if they end up as contamination.

The best way to reduce Landfill is to avoid waste. Kiama High School has done a great job of getting the canteen on board to reduce waste. With items such as straws being removed or transitioned to paper for composting, this will make a huge difference to landfill, contamination rates and even litter in the school. Similarly, a review of purchasing and school processes across the school in areas such as the office can also highlight some really positive changes such as a transition to online forms etc. Why not assign a sustainability leader to each department to review?

  1. Think about your waste as a resource.

Kiama High School are making nearly 300 dollars a fortnight from their cans and bottles, which were previously Landfill, through the Container Deposit Scheme. (Similar schemes are now available in most states.) That’s nearly $6,000 a year which helps to cover their initial investment in bins, and is then being used for other Eco-friendly alternatives.

Similarly food waste can be a valuable resource for local farmers who may compost. The nutrients, which are returned to the soil through composting, can improve crops through better quality, more drought resistant soil. It’s a win-win for all!

Last step – Harness your passion and make it happen!  

If you have a powerful story about your local school, don’t forget to share. Join the Culture Shift!

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Is my Takeaway Coffee Cup Recyclable?

In the hectic morning rush, it’s not unusual to see someone briefly pause over a recycling station, pondering if their takeaway coffee cup is recyclable.

It’s no wonder people are confused with various takeaway cup designs often promoting ‘Green Symbols’ and environmental images, perhaps designed to make us feel less guilty about forgetting our reusable cup!Takeaway Coffee Cups

It’s also clear that people want to do the right thing. Recent installations of our new Recycling Stations have resulted in an overwhelming response. People are highly engaged with these Coffee Cup programs, both discussing the program, and then diligently separating their lids, cups and liquid.

Unfortunately, this passion for recycling, in the absence of a dedicated recycling stream, often results in takeaway cups being a significant contributor of contamination, reducing the value of the recyclables, or in some cases resulting in the entire recycling streams ending up in Landfill, given it’s simply not economical to sort the recyclables from the contamination.

So why are cups not recyclable?

Coffee CUPS are lined with a thin coating to make the paper water proof. Most commonly this is polyethylene (plastic), and so as a result the cup cannot be recycled with other paper items through common technology. The small amount of plastic, combined with the paper outer lining, also means it can not pass through common plastic recycling procedures to be recovered. As such placing the cups into the recycling stream can do more harm than good, by contaminating the other paper recyclables.

The good news is that with ongoing investment in new technology, this is slowly changing. Already a number of councils in ACT and QLD have contracts with recycling facilities who recycle coffee cups as part of the recycling stream. So, it’s best to contact your waste collection contractor to confirm, and if it doubt throw your cup in Landfill, but take the lid off first!Recycling Takeaway cups

Coffee LIDS on the other hand are made of thicker plastic alone, and so can be recycled. Check for a Plastics Identification Code stamp (1–6) to confirm, and then make sure to take off your lids, and place them in the Recycling stream.

What about the biodegradable alternatives?

Biodegradable Cups replace the plastic coating with a plant based coating, often wax. This ensures they are organic and will take less time to breakdown compared to plastics. It’s also less harmful for the environment during production, eliminating the mining and burning of fossil fuels associated with plastics. If your cup does state it’s Biodegradable, check for the Australian Certification Compostable logos. This certification ensures that the material is completely plastic free, so free from micro-plastics and contains no harmful residue as it breaks down. If Australian Certified Compostable, you can be confident that these cups will breakdown with organic waste in an industrial composting facility. As such they should be suitable for a dedicated organics stream, but again check for information on the Organics Waste bin, and  don’t place them into your  recycling stream.

Coffee Cups recycling

Join the Reusable Cup Club!

What’s the best solution?

Pause and enjoy a coffee in a ceramic cup as the rest of the world rushes by, and of course, join the reusable cup club, for those moments in which you just can’t stop!

And if you see a huge Coffee Cup Recycling Station, be sure to recycle!


Coffee Cup  Separation Station


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Compost-A-Pak® Landfill & Recycling Liners

Recycling UnitsMany of our customers are aiming to reduce their waste to Landfill, and after recyclables, and organics have been diverted, plastics are usually the most common contributor.

A powerful way to reduce this waste is to lead by example and review internal purchasing practices. Sustainable alternatives, or reusable options, are available for a range of items such as plastic cups, straws, single use plastic pens, plastic folders, and of course, the environmentally harmful plastic liners, which wrap it all!

Compost-A-Pak® lineColoured Binsrs are well known as a completely plastic free, Aust. Certified compostable liners which is manufactured to our unique minimum UM standards, providing the durability needed for commercial organisation. After partnering with a number of customers and universities, who are aiming to minimise Landfill and go ‘Plastic Free’ we are excited to be now manufacturing our liners in the Australian Standard Waste colours for Recycling (yellow) & Landfill (Red) with differentiated print, in soy based compostable inks of course!

So what are the benefits of Compost-A-Pak® Coloured Liners? 

Improve cleaners efficiency when collecting multiple waste streams. Compost-A-Pak® Coloured Waste Liners ensure cleaners can collect a range of waste streams concurrently, and then easily identify and separate waste at the main collection point, emptying precious recycling material into the larger units for collection. Once used for collection and transportation, the liners can then be composted. 

Landfill Bin LinerReduce contamination. The bright Australian Standard Waste Colours make it really easy to identify red General Waste from yellow Recycling throughout the BOH collection and transportation processed, minimising contamination, 

Eliminate plastics with a sustainable, convenient alternative. Compost-A-Pak® products are made from waste corn. We choose corn, as it’s an annually renewable resource, unlike trees which Recycle Bin Linercan take years to mature. Our corn is sourced from international GMO free regions with high levels of natural rainfall to minimise irrigation, and we deliberately select third grade corn. This corn is essentially spoilt corn, and is unsuitable for human or animal consumption. Using the natural polymer derived from corn, blown film bags are then manufactured on purpose built equipment, which is reengineered to minimise electricity consumption. Compost-A-Pak® liners are then printed with soy-based, non-toxic printing inks. Once used, Compost-A-Pak® Green Bin Linerliners are Australian Certified compostable, so they can be thrown out with your organic waste, and will breakdown completely in organic composting facilities with no harmful residue through compost, all the nutrients can be returned to enrich the environment.

Interested to know more about the story of Compost-A-Pak. Check out our new website or join us online. 

If you would like to trial a sample of our liners, simply email us with the size of your bins info@sourceseparationsystems.com.au

Posted in Co-Mingle Recyclables, Compostable Bags, Council, Dry Waste, In the hospital, In the public space, In the workplace, On the campus, Organic Waste, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

CDS, a unique chance to support local charities

In SA last year, the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) raised almost $60 million annually for charities and community groups. It’s a powerful testament of the success of the program, which also improves litter and recycling rates.

NSW is the third state to announce Container Deposit Scheme CDSthe implementation of the program, with QLD, ACT and WA to follow. According to the 2015-16 National Litter Index, 49% of litter volume is comprised of beverage containers, and as more states get involved, it’s hoped that South Australia’s fabulous return rate of approx. 77% and landfill diversion rates of 80% can be mirrored.

After almost 40 years in operation South Australia’s program certainly provides some great case studies into how the program can be successfully leveraged by business and charitable organisations.  Container Deposit Scheme

Many smaller businesses have installed collection points, and collect containers to raise funds for programs, sometimes as simple as the Christmas Party. All it takes is a few Change Champions to promote the program, a collection station, and volunteers to collect and deposit the containers for refunds.

On the other end of the scale, predominant locations such as major airports, and commercial buildings have chosen to partner with charity groups, and through such programs have raised in excess of $50k a year. There are a few keys to success for such larger programs.

CDS Recycling Bin* Clearly visible deposit stations, which highlight the charity organisation which is benefiting from the program. This is a great way to promote both the program, and also the charitable donation of the organisation installing the bins. Such charity programs have been shown to increase both customer and employee engagement.

* CDS Collection Bins are place strategically alongside other Landfill bins to minimise contamination.

* Streamlined BOH collection processes. Having a dedicated dock area, and a simple MGB swap over system, minimises any manual handling and additional workload for cleaning and facilities staff. Charity groups such as the Scouts then pick up the MGBs at set timeframes, which also works to minimise the organisation waste collection costs. Win – Win!

Regardless of the size of your program, even starting with a small employee lead program, the implementation of the CDS presents a great opportunity to raise funds to support charities, improve environmental outcomes, minimize waste collection costs, and at the same time, with a well-run program, you might find employees and customer engagement improves!

We would love to hear any of your experiences with the program, and tips you may have.

If you are looking for a collection unit, just contact our team for details about our Recycling Can, MultiSort Ranges or customised solutions. 



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