Litter… It’s getting personal!

Outdoor picture bins

Research suggests a person’s emotional attachment to a location may influence their propensity to litter. It’s a theory being tested with a new wave of National Park Bins, leveraging local images and local messages to emotionally connect with the community.

Litter is a costly challenge, with larger states such as NSW spending an estimated $300 million annually¹. This expenditure is largely focused on litter management rather than prevention, (approx. 95% of costs), however even this distinction is a difficult to make, as littered places attract litter, and in fact are less likely to be used and enjoyed by the community. ²

It’s little wonder so many people are passionate about litter, particularly within iconic community spaces. This passion is spreading! Many areas are reporting a reduction in litter, linked in part to the growing community awareness of the environmental risks, and you don’t have to look far to see this trend, from the increasingly common ‘collected litter’ posts on social media, to the amazing individuals, like my neighbours, who so often walk along our gorgeous lake to collect waste.Attractive Recycling Bins

It’s this community spirit that innovative councils such as Newcastle City Council and Hornsby Shire Council are tapping into, with a new wave of National Park Bins designed specifically with local images and messages to connect people to the community spaces they are in. Such an approach to litter prevention is reinforced by behavioural studies, which conclude that littering behaviour is influenced, not only by the more commonly known determinant such as the amount of existing litter, convenient placements of bins, the ‘obtrusiveness’ of bins (Eg colour or startling design), polite signs asking people not to litter, and the design of the space to minimise out of view areas. There is also strong agreement in the litter prevention research that “The more community involvement and social engagement, the more effective the strategy.’³

The freedom to customise the National Recycling Park Range has allowed Newcastle City Council and Hornsby Shire Council to integrate a number of these findings into both their urban design and bin infrastructure, with the aim to minimise litter and so enhance the communities enjoyment and use of iconic community areas.

Newcastle has developed a series of dual stream stations, introducing recycling to the foreshore and beach areas. Each recycling station in the series is completely unique, with local photos from the area in which they are placed. Connected via a popular walk, all the bins in the series do share a common campaign message linked to these iconic images- “Why we love Newcastle”,  followed by the footer ‘How we show it”, pointing to the Do The Right Thing image. As a passionate Novocastrian, I’m a little bit bias, however not only do these bins look great, (Or ‘obtrusive’ using the research terminology), they certainly make me feel engaged to this campaign, through my connection to the images of loved community spaces, and locals doing the activities that makes us all love Newcastle.

Hornsby Shire Council in a similar way have invested in bins which can certainly be described as ‘colourful and startling’, and in Litter Campaigna similar way they have leveraging local images with the aim of connecting to the local community. The council had professional photographs taken in the refurbished mall area of individuals littering. These images were overlayed with ‘Hey Tosser, It’s a dirty look’ followed by a message about litter ‘getting noticed’, which aims to reinforce that visibility of litter, which is proven to influence behaviours.

Both these programs are obviously investment in litter management, however their thoughtful design ensures they play a key role in litter prevention.

If you would like to know more, check out the portfolio of designs on our website and Build Your Own Bin. 

Outdoor Recycling Stations

1. Price Waterhouse Coopers: Packaging Cost Benefit Analysis report p. 6-7
2. Clean Up Australian cigarette brochure April 2009 Clean Up Australia
3. Lessons from the litter-ature, A review of New South Wales and overseas litter research. 2013. NSW Government. Office of Environment & Heritage.  *Studies reviews by Huffman et al (1995), Curnow et al. (1997) and BIEC (1999)

Posted in Council, Dry Waste, In the public space, Litter, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Innovative Coffee Cup Separation Station

Coffee Cup Recylcing

In Australia most us start the morning with a coffee. It’s a habit many of us love, including the addicted team at Source Separation Systems, however the downside to our addiction is approximately three billion takeaway coffee cups, which are placed in bins across the country annually. Stuck without our Keep Cup, many of us also finish our coffee cup hovering over the Recycling Bin reading the confusing marketing jargon on many takeaway cups and pondering, is this takeaway cup recyclable?  Many do end up in recycling, often growing to be the key point of contamination in the recycling stream.

The highly visible, fun Coffee Cup Separation Station has been designed to address these contamination risks, and increase the percentage of waste that can be recycled.

ItCoffee Cup Separation Station‘s proving that coffee drinkers overwhelmingly want to do the right thing, as they diligently separate their coffee cups, lids and liquid. Many are also highly engaged, and the topical Coffee Cup Separation Station is providing a great starting point to discuss wider organisational sustainability targets.


The Coffee Cup Separation Station was initially designed as an eye-catching installation, to improve community awareness around single use takeaway coffee cups. When placed alongside busy recycling stations in public areas such as coffee shops, in busy shopping precincts, building foyers and at lift lobbies, it’s a great way to limit the possibility of the dreaded take away coffee cup ending up in the recycling stream.  It’s also a very highly visible and topical unit, helping to spark conversations about recycling, and to promote more generally the sustainability focus of the business into which is it placed.

Recycling Coffee Cups

CUSTOMISED unit designed for prominent airport location

Internally, the Coffee Cup Separation Station features a fully sealed base which minimises the risk of any spills, an important consideration in public places. An internal frame, hides two 80 Litre Compost-A-Pak liners, which are completely plastic free and Australian Certified Compostable (AS4736), one for the lid stream and one for the cups. There is also 7 litre Kitchen Caddy in the frame to capture any excess liquid. Convenient to use, the lid simply lifts off for cleaning or access, and the liners and Kitchen Caddy can then be completely removed with the collected lids, cups and liquid. After transportation, the liners can be thrown in with food waste for composting, making this unit even more sustainable.


Interest to know more, contact our team to discuss… mid-morning is always best, after everyone has had their first caffeine hit!

Coffee Cup Separation Station

Posted in Co-Mingle Recyclables, Council, Dry Waste, In the workplace | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Are you good to FOGO?

We are excited to read the following article about another successful FOGO program, which features educational material presented to the user every time they divert food waste, courtesy of our innovative Kitchen Caddy’s inmould label. Congratulations to the Shellharbour City Council Team!

This article was published by Waste Management Review. To read other similar articles just click on this link –

Gorgeous customers with Source Separation Systems's Kitchen Caddy featuring an inmould label

Gorgeous customers with Source Separation Systems’s Kitchen Caddy featuring an inmould label

Are you good to go FOGO?
October 20, 2017 by Waste Management Review
Food and garden organics collection is proving to be a cost-effective way for councils to reduce the amount of waste to landfill, but why have so many been slow to the punch?

Influencing a community of just under 70,000 to change their behaviours was never going to be easy, but one council found the solution in a simple, yet effective catchphrase.

Are you good to go FOGO?

FOGO, which stands for food and garden organics collection services, involves councils taking those waste streams and introducing a composting operation to turn them into a nutrient-rich product. When done so safely, some local government bodies believe FOGO has significant potential to reduce the amount of food and organic waste going to landfill.

It almost took 10 years for the New South Wales’ coastal community of Shellharbour to introduce FOGO, and the council is finally reaping the rewards. The journey began with an initial survey in 2007 and concluded late last year. Thanks to a grassroots campaign, Shellharbour now operates a weekly FOGO service.

For Shellharbour City Council, the process of introducing a FOGO service required input from industry experts and councils across the nation, in order to successfully instil behavioural change. As recycling requires residents to change their habits, Sue Fletcher, Technical Officer Waste Management, explains that repetition through the catchy term FOGO had a positive effect on influencing change, as it became entrenched in the vocabulary of community members.

While the collection of garden organics is more commonplace in councils across Australia, Shellharbour saw potential for FOGO to significantly reduce waste to landfill, working hard to change community behaviours.

To achieve this, it conducted extensive surveys, free courses, television and radio advertisements, door knocks and barbecues, all with the goal of helping residents understand the benefits. They spoke to behavioural experts, industry experts and other councils from across the nation, implementing a strategic plan. The plan involved getting residents to voluntarily downsize their 240L to 140L residual waste bin and separating their food and organic waste into separate bins to prevent contamination.

The success story led to Shellharbour collecting more than 9000 tonnes of FOGO material at the kerbside between its launch in July 2016 and March 2017, an increase of more than 2200 tonnes compared to the same time last year. Its waste to landfill has already reduced by an additional 1616 tonnes, compared to the same time last year. The council has even managed to handle this alongside the municipality’s population growth, with waste to landfill continuing on a downward trend despite the increase in generation. So what’s stopping the rest of the nation from achieving a similar result?


While Shellharbour’s hard work shows that FOGO can be economically feasible and environmentally sound, the question remains how prevalent the service is. Data compiled by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy (National Waste Reporting 2013) indicates that around 14 million tonnes (Mt) of organic waste was generated nationally in 2010–11, with 47 per cent of this disposed to landfill, 44 per cent recycled and 9 per cent used in energy recovery.

In Victoria for example, a spokesperson for statutory authority Sustainability Victoria says 13 out of 79 of Victoria’s councils provide a FOGO service to households. Of this figure, 53 provide some form of organics collection service to residents.

“There is definitely potential for an organics service to be expanded to the remaining councils,” the spokesperson says.

JustWaste Consulting director, Justin Jones, believes the slow progress of FOGO is due to the challenges of obtaining approval from the state’s environmental protection agencies (EPAs), which are concerned with the stigma surrounding noxious odours emitted by a food composting service. Another challenge also falls with councils, as they are tasked with getting their residents to change their waste disposal habits. The third issue relates to scalability, as the cost of setting up a composting service may outweigh the benefits depending on the population and type of operation.

According to the Federal Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Food and Garden Organics Best Practice Manual, collecting source separated food and garden organics can help councils alleviate the costs of landfill disposal by avoiding levies, reducing the costs of public park and gardens (through composting) and assist the climate by preventing anaerobic decomposition in landfill.


A factsheet based on the former Federal Government’s Food and Garden Organics Best Practice Collection Manual (2012) indicates there are various technologies used in a composting service, including; windrowing, aerated static pile, in-vessel composting and fully enclosed composting.

Open windrow composting is defined in the document as a low-cost option that is used in the majority of organics processing facilities in Australia and the world. Open windrow composting involves placing organic matter or biodegradable waste in long rows known as windrows. The windrows are turned regularly, either with front end loaders or dedicated windrow turners, screening for contamination which allows the organic matter to decompose.

Aerated static pile is a more expensive version of composting and involves mixing organic residues in one large pile, instead of rows. Piles are placed over a network of pipes that deliver air into, or draw out of, the pile, aerating the material to supply it with oxygen to grow and remove moisture and heat. This is known as forced aeration. Aerated static pile generally requires blowers, pipes and sensors to control the supply of air.

Forced aeration is also used in in-vessel composting, which involves feeding organic materials into a drum, silo, tunnel, box or similar container. The intensive composting process takes place in controlled environmental conditions, regulating the temperature, moisture and aeration. Materials are premixed before being loaded into a vessel, where they sit for about one to three weeks before further composting and placement in static piles or aerated windrows.

Sue says as a result of the environmental impact statement and consultation with relevant agency bodies, Shellharbour used in-vessel composting due to the location of the facility to the surrounding receptors.


While Shellharbour’s experience has been successful, others have noted the potential for FOGO to reduce the national footprint of waste going to landfill.

JustWaste director Justin Jones says he sees huge potential for FOGO, particularly smaller operations. This is due to the ease of obtaining approval from the EPA for composting, as a key distance from municipal areas means less of an odour risk, while also being more financially viable due to their smaller scale.

“In metropolitan areas such as Melbourne, you’re dealing with larger volumes as well as the perception of odour issues. Victoria has stringent guidelines in regards to how you can compost FOGO, so that could be the reason why they’ve been slow to embrace change.”

Justin says operators in NSW utilise many differing technology and processes for the treatment of organics, especially FOGO. He says that as more sites become available to accept organics, more councils will make the switch. He says the perception that FOGO is a high-risk odour issue can be overcome by proper process control, technology choice and the fact that the food component is so low.

JustWaste conducted a study into a small-scale composting facility for Coolamon Shire Council in the Riverina region of NSW. The 2017 assessment found the construction of a small-scale windrow composting area could be put together at a low cost and quick turnaround, particularly when attached to an existing landfill.

He estimates that open windrowing can cost up to $50,000, while forced aeration systems cost around $150,000 and an in-vessel system could cost anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million. Justin notes that the cost and benefits depend largely on the scalability of the project.

Coolamon Shire Council has seen significant cost savings from the process. Colby Farmer, Executive Manager of Development and Environmental Services, says the council uses open windrow composting to produce a compost used in the municipality’s parks and gardens. Colby says councils across Australia could develop a business case for selling the compost back on to consumers.

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The big green furphy: experts bust degradable plastic bag myth

An interesting article originally published in the SMH, watch the video here  . As we continue to campaign for education about the risk of ‘biodegradable’ bags, and compare them to alternatives such as ‘compostable’ solutions, it’s important to highlight Australia’s strict Compostable Certifications for both home composting and industrial composting. 

Next time you accept a degradable plastic bag at the supermarket, think again – you may be doing little to help the environment and adding dangerous microplastics to rivers and oceans, experts say.

The warning has prompted a Senate committee to call for a public awareness campaign to explain the differences between degradable, biodegradable, compostable and traditional plastic bags – and how they should be disposed of – to educate consumers who mistakenly believe they are doing the right thing.

“Degradable” plastics, commonly used for shopping and rubbish bags, contain additives that make them disintegrate more quickly than traditional plastics. Some people also refer to these products as “biodegradable”.

A Senate committee has called for a campaign to explain how different types of plastic should be disposed of.

While such bags do not remain for decades in the environment as large debris, they can break into smaller and smaller particles until they become microplastics – tiny plastic fragments less than five millimetres in size.

When microplastics enter the marine environment they can choke seabirds, poison wildlife and accumulate up the food chain, turning up in seafood eaten by humans.

A Senate committee last week produced a report into the “toxic tide” of marine plastic pollution, including plastic shopping bags.

The Senate committee has produced a report into the "toxic tide" of marine plastic pollution.Tony Underwood, University of Sydney emeritus professor of experimental ecology, told the inquiry that biodegradable plastic may become less obvious to the naked eye over time, but was an “invisible idiot”.

“[It] simply turns it into smaller forms of plastic more quickly,” he said. “It is not a solution to anything much, unless we are quite happy to shift it all into particle-sized plastics rather than plastic bag-sized plastic.”

University of Queensland academic Kathy Townsend told the committee that consumers were largely confused about different types of bags, and using the terms “degradable” and “biodegradable” plastic inspired more littering because people wrongly believed it would “degrade and go away”.

The rapid disintegration of such plastic also makes it “available to animals much faster than it would be otherwise”, she said.

University of NSW biodiversity expert Mark Browne cited research comparing biodegradable and traditional plastic bags, saying “we put them on a mudflat and looked at the changes in animals and plants that lived among them, and they both caused the same impact”.

The committee said the term “biodegradable” could also refer to “fully biodegradable” or “compostable” plastics generally made from plant materials which return to base organic components when processed by commercial composting facilities.

Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie-Ann Johnson told the inquiry of a large Australian retailer – understood to be Target – that introduced compostable bags but experienced a “customer backlash … because they were not strong enough”.

She said people often wrongly thought compostable containers could break down in backyard compost, when they required commercial composting units, and “there are not enough … units in the country to take them”.

The committee, dominated by Labor and Greens members, noted community confusion over plastic bag types, their disposal and their various environmental effects. It called on the government to encourage states and territories to run targeted education campaigns aiming to change consumer behaviour on plastic use and provide information about alternatives.

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2,300 Tonnes of Food and Garden Organics Recycled in Byron Shire

Originally published in the BYRON BAY BLOG. For more information about this publication or the beautiful Byron Bay area, click here . For more information on the Compost-A-Pak liners used in the program, click here

Congratulations Byron Shire! You have recycled 2,300 tonnes of food and garden organics in six months!


This has reduced Council’s putrescible landfill waste transport and disposal costs by approximately $150,000 since the implementation of the three bin collection service in August. Plus, Byron Shire has on average 30 per cent less kerbside waste going to landfill compared to the previous two-bin system.

Of the total kerbside waste collected each month, an average of 31 per cent is organic materials, 32 per cent recycling and the remaining 37 per cent is landfill waste.

Mayor Simon Richardson thanked residents for being a ‘good sort’.

Overall Byron Shire’s kerbside recycling rate is now 63 per cent, compared with 38 per cent prior to the introduction of our organics service. It’s a great result.

“Particularly impressive is that we have maintained this over the extremely busy Christmas holiday period. But we can do better, let’s aim for a total recycling rate of 70 per cent,” he urged.

Instead of being buried in landfill, our organic materials are processed into certified organic compost at Lismore City council’s composting facility and used by local farmers and growers to improve agricultural soils.

Local farmer and founder of social enterprise, Munch Crunch Organics, Alasdair Smithson, has been using Lismore’s kerbside organics compost for seven or eight years.

“Overall we are happy with the product and it is a good soil improver, hopefully we can do it in the Byron Shire soon too,” he said.

Alasdair thanked the community for contributing their organics because the compost is being used by local farmers and growers.

“It’s really important to us as organic farmers, that we return organic waste back to the soil to build the organic matter and reduce the effects of climate change by doing so,” Mr Smithson said.

Suffolk Park resident, Suzie Morley is happy to have been part of this important environmental initiative and says the three bin system works well for her family of four.

“We compost anyway and have a worm farm, but we were producing more organic waste as a family than the worms could cope with,” Ms Morley said.

“It’s a super easy system and we find we hardly use our red bin.”

Ms Morley said the key to making the system work is to have three bins set up in the kitchen.

We have a cardboard box in the cupboard for all of our recycling and a bin with a liner in it under the kitchen sink for all landfill waste and the caddy on the counter right next to the chopping board for all food scraps so it’s convenient when we are cooking.”

“I think it’s good for training the little ones and now even our four year old Millie knows about composting.”

Contamination update

Organics bin contamination continues to be very low; Council is still keen to remind residents not to use plastic bags, degradable or biodegradable bags in the organics bin.

Place food organics inside a green compostable caddy liner, wrap scraps in newspaper or place directly inside the caddy. All food and garden waste, including things like meat bones, seafood and soiled paper can also go in the organics bin.

Yellow bin recycling results are also good, but the main contaminants are bagged hard plastic recyclables and loose soft plastics.

This has the potential to spoil a whole truckload of recycling and everybody is needed to stay on board and put the correct items into each bin.

If you need a reminder about what items go in each bin, check the A-Z Recycling Guide on the Byron Shire Council website.

As part of the 3 bin collection service, Council continues to conduct weekly visual bin contamination audits which are a great way of providing extra education to our residents about what items can go in each of the bins.

youre_getting_it_sorted_byron_shire_-_2300_tonnes_of_food_and_garden_organics_recycled-recourse_recovery_pie_graph-520x473We’d also like to thank the Byron Shire Echo for supporting this local environmental initiative by introducing a green compostable bag and we encourage anybody else in the same position to jump on board and use compostable instead of plastic bags!

Find out more about our three bin collection service at

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